Sunday, October 25, 2015

Bloody Mississippi, Part One

Flies flew around the confined hunting lodge, nestled back in the trees right along the churning waters of the Mississippi. The overwhelming heat of the summer combined with the thick clouds of vapor in the air made it difficult for the officers to look at the scene of the crime, so the Department of Wildlife that’d found the scene had just quarantined the area with yellow tape and called ahead for the State police. Two officers leaned against the back of a muddy patrol car, arms crossed and hats tilted back as they stared at the dirt path leading to the shack.

“Can’t believe Mason’s gone,” Elizabeth said her voice hollow. One of the victims had been the female officer’s on-again, off-again boyfriend for the past three years. The lanky hunter was a former Marine, having served two tours in the Gulf War. He was as kind as they came but never one to back down from a challenge; they’d found his body lying a few feet from the door, a heavy caliber pistol in his right hand.
“Spaulding too,” Herschel, an older officer with round glasses and a wide speckled gray moustache. “All four of those men in there were crack shots, three of them with military training. Whatever got them, got to ‘em fast and got to ‘em hard.”
Elizabeth fell quiet as she looked around the dirt around the hunting lodge, hoping to find a trace of foot prints or tire tracks. She wasn’t a detective, but maybe she’d be able to see something she could point out to the officers when they arrived. Smiling grimly as she heard tires hit gravel near the front of the curved drive, she looked up and smiled as a black car glided up towards their patrol vehicle before pulling to a stop. The windows were tinted to the point where you couldn’t look through them, but with the sirens on top of the vehicle nobody would dare question the drivers. Elizabeth pushed herself away from the trunk of her car as the driver’s side door opened, revealing an elderly man, easily in his late sixties, in a suit. He wore a badge on his lapel, one she instantly recognized as the marking of a Federal Agent, and inwardly groaned.
She hated dealing with the Feds. They always dominated any case they became involved with and muddied the waters of rather easy to solve affairs. This fed had dark silver hair in a short style, with drooping eyes and creases on his cheeks. Crows feet and jowls marred his pale skin where soft flesh didn’t droop. The man closed the door and moved with a surprising grace towards Elizabeth and Herschel, reaching into the interior of his jacket for something as he strode over to them.
“Hello,” he greeted them calmly, squinting from the morning sun. “I assume this is the old Ray Hunting Lodge?”
“You got it in one,” Herschel said as he walked up from behind Elizabeth, hand extended offering to shake the Agents hand. The agent looked at the offered hand and hesitantly accepted it, pumping the hand once before letting go. He didn’t offer a handshake to Elizabeth, instead choosing to pull a small yellow notepad from his suit.
“I take it you were the two that originally came upon the crime scene?” The agent asked, not offering his name.
“Um, yeah. I mean yes sir,” Elizabeth said.
“And what led you to come down to this lodge so early in the morning?” The agent asked, scribbling down some notes.
“We got a call from a fisherman that he’d seen something big moving in the waters near here,” Herschel explained, crossing his arms. “Officer Lexington here knows the owner of the lodge and thought we might be able to borrow one of his fishing boats to see if we had something dangerous on our hands. Turns out we were right, in a way.”
“Officer Lexington, is it?” The agent asked, eyes flicking up to stare at Elizabeth. “I knew your father, I believe.”
“Yeah,” Elizabeth mumbled, rubbing the back of her head. “He was a Federal Agent, died when I was fourteen.”
“Sorry to hear that,” the agent said with cold remorse. He tucked his notepad into his suit before walking forward, lifting the yellow police tape so he could make his way into the lodge. The smell of death was already palatable, even from the front lawn of the building, what with the door being open. He turned to Herschel, eyes squinting. “How long do we think the bodies have been here?”
“Well one of the men in there was seen yesterday buying a case of beer from a corner store, so not long.” Herschel replied. The agent clucked his tongue before turning back to, striding into the haze of flies and foul stench. Herschel and Elizabeth followed him up into the building, doing their best not to gag on the odor of rancid meat.
They found the agent standing over Mason’s body, white gloves over his hands as he picked up the revolver from the dead hands of Elizabeth’s former lover. He popped open the cylinder before shaking his head.
“What is it?” Elizabeth asked.
“He didn’t even get a shot off,” the agent casually remarked before pulling a large Ziploc bag from his pocket and depositing the gun in it. He handed it to Herschel gently. “Take a sharpie and write zero-zero-one on that, along with my name.”
“We never caught your name,” Elizabeth said somewhat tersely.
“Oh,” the agent stood back up and looked back them with a calculating gaze. “I’m agent Blake Stone. I get called in whenever we have mysterious deaths along the Mississippi.”
“Why is that?” Herschel asked.
Agent Stone shrugged. “I’m well-versed in the mythology of the region, as well as the modern day rituals and practices of cults and Occultists.”
“So… you’re a modern day Mulder?” Elizabeth asked with a hint of a smile.
“In a way,” Agent Stone said, a thin smile returned. “Now, from what I can tell this man here…”
“Mason,” Elizabeth supplied.
“Mason. He has no visible wounds but the capillaries in his eyes have burst. I’m going to check the other victims, but I assume that each of them will have similar injuries.” Agent Stone said, clapping his hands. “I want you two to check around the lodge for any ash singed onto the walls, or doors.”
“Ash?” Elizabeth asked.
“Yes, there are some spirits that leave behind traces of their existence in the form of ash,” Agent Stone said as if speaking to a child. “This is reminiscent of a scene I visited about eight years ago about ten miles from here. Three men, two women, all found dead with no visible wounds. The coroner said they all died of cardiac arrest, with a good deal of blood missing from their bodies. I suspect these men will have similar injuries.”
“So we have a serial killer on our hands?” Elizabeth asked, furrowing her brow.
“No,” Agent Stone said. “What does these killings are something that can’t be explained away as a simple killer looking for a cheap thrill. These are methodical and brutal, done with lightning speed and no available traces of the culprit to be found.”
“So we’re just going to leave this as what, a cold case?” Herschel asked, sounding a little disappointed at that.
“No,” Agent Stone replied before pulling out a cell phone. “I’m going to call in the CSI, the police to take these bodies to the morgue to be studied. I need you two to round up some local trackers, men or women who’ve been hunting the muddy shores of this river for decades. I want you to search up and down the shores, and arrange for a few boats to cruise the waters.”
Herschel nodded, looking back at Elizabeth for a moment. “What are we exactly looking for?”

Agent Stone looked over at Hershel as he kneeled next to a body that had fallen limply across the couch. “A den, big enough for the biggest Crocodile you’ve ever seen.”

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