Name: Arnold (Cal) Callahan
Appearance: 5’10”, fit, golden blond military crewcut, bluish-green eyes, thin lips, and cleft chin
Occupation: deputy Sheriff
Personality: meticulous to the point of prissiness, but it’s a mistake to assume he’s not also a creative thinker, especially if he can find a way to benefit himself; openly snide to those he doesn’t like, rather than a man who’ll talk behind your back; impatient; not charming, but manipulative nonetheless.
Backstory: Callahan leap-frogged into his current job, skipping over a number of other, equally qualified men, after the former deputy Sheriff, Aaron McLean, was killed along with his family. There have been whispers that he ‘pulled strings’ to get appointed to the position so quickly, but like the allegations of him cheating on tests when he was a schoolboy, nothing has been proven, and the man is bright and competent enough to have achieved recognition on his own, if he applied himself. Cal is now working hard to make himself indispensable as an aide to Sheriff Morgan.
Cal’s grandfather, Eugene, tried looking for gold in the Blue Ridges, coincidentally in nearly the same area as that claimed by young Johnny McLean, shortly after he gained a golden fiddle. Unfortunately, Eugene Callahan never found a speck of gold, whereas the McLean land yielded a rich vein of ore, and eventually Eugene wound up working in John McLean’s mine. He was as well-treated as any other miner, and lived to a fairly old age, but these circumstances have always rankled for Cal, who feels that the McLean fortune, or at least a share of it, rightly belongs to him.
Name: Lyle Morgan
Appearance: a bit over 5’9”, but appears taller in boots and hat; dark brown hair shorn in a classic marine’s high & tight, even shorter than a crewcut, and randomly shot with gray; mustache; broad shouldered and heavy boned, muscular and solid-looking; medium brown eyes and reading glasses
Occupation: Sheriff of Gilmer County, Georgia (based in Ellijay)
Personality: bluff and kindly; presents the appearance of being an affable father-figure, and he relies as much on this as on his experience and success record in office to keep being elected Sheriff; coincidentally IS a good father to his two sons, and a reasonably good husband to his high school sweetheart; wise enough to know how to manage his police force in order to get the best out of them, and isn’t afraid to delegate his authority to those who have the skills to excel in a given task.
Backstory: the Morgan family has a long history in law enforcement in and around the counties of northern Georgia; indeed virtually the only males among Lyle’s relatives who became neither policemen nor lawyers (if there was money for law school at the time), were those who went to whatever war was going on at the time, and never came back. So, Lyle has never had to work extremely hard to get voter support. Nevertheless, he is careful to remain popular politically and with the general public. Yet this doesn’t mean he’s less than 100% dedicated to his job; it’s the most important thing in his life… except his wife and children.
Name: Catherine Amos
Appearance: a bit over 5’3”, but very feisty and full of spark; straight, pale blond hair that reaches to mid-back when worn loose; peaches and cream complexion; baby blue eyes and dimples
Occupation: public defense attorney
Personality: Cat looks and acts younger than her calendar age, and is very innocent and idealistic in many ways; friendly, sweet, and seems delicate, but don’t you believe it, because there’s steel in her backbone, and she has an instinctive grasp of who’s lying and who’s telling the truth.
Backstory: Catherine was born to be a stereotypical Southern Belle; her family was well-to-do, and she was gifted with languages and music… but she was also very opinionated and stubborn for a girl of her class in Charleston, South Carolina. She argued until she got her way and was allowed to go to college; her parents thought she would meet a nice, suitable young man there and get married. Instead, Cat excelled and won a scholarship to Savannah Law School in Georgia, from which she graduated last year. In exchange for her tuition, she is working in one of the more remote areas of Georgia as a court appointed counsel for the defense.
Back in Ellijay:
Karl Roxenberg drifted closer to consciousness. “That’s all four of ‘em, Lil’ Joe, cuffed and read their rights, all but Sleeping Beauty, here. Not a bad haul for an anonymous tip, huh?” It was another police officer speaking, in plain clothes not because he was a detective, since Ellijay could afford only one, but rather because he didn’t sleep in his uniform, and Joe Harrison had needed the help.
“Four? There should be five,” Thienete Almundus’s voice flowed up the cellar stairs and out into the moonlight like… well, Karl didn’t want to think about what it was like, but the underground storage area did seem remarkably crypt-like in the nighttime fog.
“Yes, ma’am. We think one may have escaped while you were subduing Karl, here,” said Det. Harrison with his characteristic casual attitude. “There are signs of someone skidding on the wet clay, running away from the cellar doors.” Then he whistled appreciatively. “You sure are good at kung fu or karate or something, according to these rascals! Normally I don’t approve of vigilantism, but I guess you were just defending yourself, and did an amazingly thorough job of it. Thank you, ma’am, and I’m glad you weren’t hurt.”
“Hurt? Her?” giggled one of the twins, there was no telling whether it was Roc or Roy in the dim light, only that the man was close to hysteria. “She’s a demon straight from Hell, that one. Dangles from the ceiling like a bat. Hurt?” And his brother joined in the maniacal laughter.
That appeared to set off Luke. “Red eyes,” he intoned, as though imparting the wisdom of the ages, “red, red, red.” Then, for a moment he seemed perfectly lucid. Looking around and spotting the butleress, he shrank back, begging the two policemen, “Please, don’t let her come near me. It wasn’t just that she knocked me out… I’ve never had such horrible nightmares… If it was a dream…”
“Dwight, we better take these guys round to the Clinic before we lock them up,” was Det. Harrison’s assessment. “Either they’ve been sampling their product pretty heavily, or the bumps on their heads are worse than they look. Could be both. Whatever the case, I don’t want to be responsible for putting them in a jail cell if they seriously need medical attention and aren’t merely faking it.”
“Right, Lil’ Joe,” Dwight replied, then, ‘helping’ Karl to stand by bodily hauling him to his feet, he added, “What about you? Not going to complain about demons, too? Or don’t you mind that a stick-thin woman kicked your ass up between your ears?”
With Thienete’s eyes on him, he could feel them burning into his skull, damn it, it was irresistibly tempting to tell the police that he’d emptied a clip into her chest and she’d… absorbed the bullets… like a sponge. Karl was no fool, however. He knew what he’d seen every bit as certainly as he knew that people went away for a lot longer to institutions for the criminally insane than to regular prison. Therefore, all he said was, “I haven’t been read my rights, yet, have I?” And, until in the presence of his lawyer, Karl Roxenberg refused to utter another word.
As the police van full of drug dealers drove away, Thienete turned back to her mistress, and Uncle Johnny in Peter’s body. Seraphim had never seen the butleress look genuinely apologetic before. “I’m afraid, my lady, that I deceived both you and the law officers just now. The original crew of malefactors who came to remove their apparatus and merchandise from the cellar totaled six in number, not five. I let one of them go,” the demoness explained stoically.
“Oh? Why?” snapped the ghost sharply. His great-niece put her hand on his… well, Peter’s… arm to calm him, for emotional balance rather than to physically steady him, although she, too, was quite angry.
“I’m sure you had excellent reasons, Thienete, just like I had mine for preventing you from killing the one you had by the throat; that would have been awkward on many points, but mainly, I didn’t want to descend to their level. Also, of course, alive, he can still talk to the police and implicate other perpetrators,” Seraphim said. “So, let’s hear what you were thinking.” Initially it had been difficult for her to give orders to any servant, much less an infernal one, but this time it didn’t faze her.
“He was a young person, madam, perhaps twenty, which wouldn’t ordinarily affect my opinion, as one can turn to evil early in life and become thoroughly corrupt by that age. This boy, however, was not. If I were an ordinary woman, I might owe him my life,” the butleress smiled thinly at that. “He was given the task of eliminating me by the leader, the one I had by the throat, but found himself unable to comply. Therefore I, in turn, allowed him to escape.”
“I see. Very well, Thienete.” Seraphim didn’t exactly commend the demoness on her fairness and mercy, for fear of embarrassing her, but the matter was clearly settled. “Uncle, why don’t we get you up to Peter’s room now, so that we can concoct some story to tell him once you’re out of his body, and all go back to sleep?”
Peter, waking up in his own bed, when the last thing he knew, he’d been warning Sera of gunfire, was understandably confused. “I just… fainted? Because of gunshots from raccoon hunters? You’re sure of that?”
“You were very alarmed, Peter,” Seraphim told him. “And the shots were pretty close. People must still think the place is abandoned, or else they wouldn’t be so irresponsible as to go coon hunting this close to someone’s house.” She laid the back of her hand across his forehead. “No, you haven’t got a fever. Maybe you should have a doctor check your blood pressure. High blood pressure can be life-threatening if not properly treated, you know.” The expression on Sera’s face was as innocent as a newborn lamb. ‘Really, a discerning boyfriend would recognize it as full of mischief by now,’ she thought privately.
Near dawn, Det. Joe Harrison slumped in his chair at the Ellijay police station, boots up on his desk, deep in thought. All four prisoners had been found fit for incarceration, meaning that they weren’t so drunk or high that they were likely to die from it overnight. The twins had tested with low blood alcohol levels, consistent with having had a few beers, but nothing serious, and none of the drug dealers had head wounds that would ordinarily lead to hallucinations. So it was strange that the three who were talking all spoke of the McLean butleress as a terrifying demon. Karl Roxenberg was just now exercising his right to one phone call; from the faces he was making, what the leader of the small ‘clean-up crew’ was hearing was unwelcome to his ears.
“What do you mean, you can’t help me? You just won’t, that’s all,” Karl ranted into the phone. The posh lawyer kept on retainer by the cartel reiterated, for the benefit of the man he would not be taking as a client, that those higher up in the organization were displeased with Karl’s recent mistakes. “So I’m expendable?” the prisoner’s voice raised in both volume and pitch until the last word came out almost as a shriek. Icily, the attorney informed Mr. Roxenberg that his expendability, or lack thereof, was none of his concern, and then hung up.
Thinking fast, as he was being escorted back to his cell, Karl was inspired. “Tell that detective, tell Harrison, that if he can get the Prosecuting Attorney to drop the worst of the charges against me, I’ll plead guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia and even the cocaine. Plus, I’ll give him invaluable firsthand information regarding the McLean murder case. Tell him. You just tell him for me.” Unfortunately, this proved to be a strategic blunder. Not long after the locks clanged shut behind him, Karl became aware of a person, silhouetted by the harsh lights, standing at the corner of his cell and hissing to get his attention. “You? What are you doing here?” demanded the drug dealer, overconfident due to his recent stroke of brilliance.
“It’s change of shift,” came a low and somewhat breathy voice, “everybody’s here. But not everyone knows about your offer, Karl. Not yet.” There was a brief pause, nine or ten seconds, perhaps. Then the speaker continued. “You shouldn’t have done that, Karl. There’s no more life for you now. You didn’t think far enough ahead. The bosses, they’ll get to you… in the outside world, inside the penitentiary… it doesn’t matter. If you talk, if you betray them, they’ll get to you, and your death will not be pretty. And in here… well, I can get to you, can’t I?” The silhouette shook, barely suppressing laughter. “In fact, it doesn’t really matter if you talk or not, does it? You see, enough people heard you say you would. So all that matters is whether I say you betrayed the cartel or not. Tell me, Karl, why shouldn’t I say you talked?”
“Who do you think you are?” Karl retorted. “Sure, you can get to me in here, but everyone will know it was you who did it if you so much as lay a hand on me.” Looking smug, he concluded, “Go to Hell!”
Again the silhouette on the opposite side of the bars jiggled with contained amusement. “Oh Karl, see you there!” But that was by no means the end of what the mysterious figure had to say.
Shortly after that conversation took place, relatively speaking, Detective Harrison was jerked awake from where his thinking had gotten overly ponderous, by Dwight yelling, “Lil’ Joe, come quick! That silent one’s gone and hanged himself in his cell.” Upon investigation, this did indeed prove to be the case, or at least it seemed to be. Someone had arranged for the man to be dangling from a narrow, shiny, black leather belt. It might or might not be suicide; it was certainly not Karl Roxenberg’s belt.
Solving this mystery should be easy; there were guards on duty, but no one reported seeing anyone coming or going from the detention area carrying or wearing such a belt ready to be given to Karl. Furthermore, the light fixture which supported the now dead man’s weight was in the middle of the cell, fully visible by at least two, maybe three, other prisoners. Unfortunately, they were the trio arrested earlier that night at the McLean estate. According to them, the Devil himself, all in black, had paid Karl a visit, and passed him a live snake through the bars. Upon receipt of the serpent, it transformed into a belt, and the Devil had vanished, leaving the drug dealer alone to fashion an improvised noose and jump off of the cot to swing free. He’d been crying, that they recalled.
“Oh Christ,” was all Det. Joe Harrison would say yet about his interpretation of the situation, “the paperwork on this incident is going to be, pardon the pun, Hell. Why is the coffeepot always empty?”
Sitting across the grand dining table from Peter, being served by Thienete, and knowing that they were the only three living souls in the entire mansion made Seraphim feel a bit like a little girl having a tea party with her dolls. For this morning’s breakfast, the butleress had contrived eggs benedict, toast that was browned on only one side in the English style, and an array of jams and fruit preserves prepared by her late aunts and cousins which had been stored in the cellar. It was, of course, delicious. Even Uncle Johnny enjoyed the meal, reminiscing only a fraction sadly about the womenfolk who had gathered and boiled the fruit until it was ready. And the demoness’s coffee tasted positively heavenly.
They had almost finished eating when they were interrupted by knocking on the outer door of the passageway running between the dining hall and ballroom. Thienete, ever efficient, intercepted the early guests before the second knock was completed, and ushered whoever it was into the library to wait for Ms. McLean Phelps to assuage her hunger and leave the table. “Well, I for one, am consumed with curiosity. Let’s go meet this unexpected person or people,” proposed Seraphim, a dimple appearing and disappearing in her cheek as she spoke.
During the course of appraising antiques, often with some supernatural component, over the past six years, Seraphim had developed an instinct that generally told her when she was looking at the genuine article, rather than a clever replica. The old man standing with his back half turned to her, dressed simply in jeans and a plaid shirt, was definitely the real thing. Sera wasn’t quite sure about ‘the real what?’, but she knew he was no fake. With him was a youth in his late teens, maybe as much as twenty, similarly clad in jeans and a tee-shirt… black, and coincidentally, inside out. Both men had deeply tan skin, the boy with shoulder length black hair, the elder with iron grey hair pulled back into a short ponytail. Before they could catch her staring, the heiress composed herself and spoke first, “Good morning, gentlemen. I am Seraphim McLean Phelps. What can I do for you?”
The older man faced her then, and she could see the Indian cast of his features. Creek, or Cherokee maybe. “A pleasure to meet you, Miss. I am called Old Man Gail, and this is my grandson Wo… er… Eagle Watson.”
“I see, sir,” Seraphim said formally. “And the pleasure is mine.” She inclined her head a bit. Old Man Gail’s stern demeanor lessened somewhat. The young man, Eagle, looked chastened, but a little hopeful, and very determined. Sera deduced that this must be the boy Thienete had let go the night before. He wasn’t merely here to thank her, though; his grandfather had brought him for a larger, more meaningful, purpose than that.
At a fierce glance from his grandfather, Eagle cleared his throat and explained, “I… I’ve made some bad mistakes, and I need to atone for them as well as get myself started on the right path, ma’a… er… Miss… er… Ms. McLean Phelps. You’ve probably figured out that I owe your butler my life. There aren’t that many Indian kids in these mountains, I guess.” He paused for breath, then hurried on. “So I’d like to start making amends here, working for you… for free!... doing whatever you need done. I’m stronger than I look, and I learn really quick…”
“Actually, Thienete, Ms. Almundus to you, prefers the term butleress,” Seraphim corrected. “And welcome to my… home. Yet, what had you planned on doing for us, Eagle Watson? Thienete takes care of most of our needs, my own and my boyfriend’s, Mr. Peter Stevenson,” she said, indicating the man standing behind and slightly to her left. Peter nodded politely, neither stiffly nor cordially, and looked utterly confused.
“Does she see to the ghosts, too?” Eagle asked, a hint of his normal cheekiness showing through. Seraphim was not surprised that his grandfather’s expression didn’t change; the older man knew about ghosts, and had no particular fear of them merely because they were dead.
"Ghosts? What ghosts? Sera what is he talking about?" Her boyfriend's face turned paper white. Even in broad daylight, ghosts are still not a pleasant topic, and they weren’t something Peter’s life had prepared him to deal with.
“Wohali,” Old Man Gail cautioned his grandson firmly. Clearly, the McLean heiress hadn’t told the man who’d accompanied her from Washington D.C. everything. Perhaps she was wise in that. Regardless, it was not his business to interfere. “The boy misspoke,” the elderly guest said blandly. “Fear is a powerful enemy. It can make an army out of one warrior, and a warrior from a fleeting shadow.” This was not a lie; Eagle believed he’d seen many ghosts when, in fact, John McLean alone was haunting the immediate area. As Old Man Gail was talking, he looked meaningfully into a window. It reflected a very old white man, familiar to the Cherokee elder from long association, but no one was standing in front of that window. "Stubborn Indian." Gail read the reflection's lips, and returned underneath his breath, but with no particular rancor, "Ornery Old Cuss."
Somehow, after that it seemed that the deal was sealed, and Eagle was, at least temporarily, now a member of the household staff. It was understood that he was to assist Thienete with the cleanup of the mansion, and generally follow her orders; however he was answerable to everyone, including Uncle Johnny, although that was a tacit agreement. In exchange for his services, the young man would receive room and board, such as it was in the burned out building. Eagle was still, essentially, a scullery boy, but his new employers were an infinite improvement over the drug ring, even strange as they were.
As Old Man Gail was leaving, he pulled Seraphim aside. “It would not be right if I did not tell you this: you are playing with fire. Normally I would condemn you as a Witch, and not allow my grandson to come here, but I sense that this is the right path for him. Also, you Whites are odd in what little... you call it ‘magic’... you possess; I do not understand you. That woman you call Thienete Almundus, she is an evil spirit, created by evil, out of evil, and yet… she does not act wholly evil. Nevertheless, beware of her. Of even greater danger is the fiddle. Already it has begun to drain your uncle’s soul. And the use of it will lead to temptation and woe, for it is of the blackest magic. Be careful, Seraphim of the Angels.”
On the way back from escorting Eagle’s grandfather to the door, Seraphim was once again drawn apart, this time by her boyfriend. “Sera, what exactly was that all about? Why would he owe Ms. Almundus his life? Wasn’t she with us more or less the whole time? I don’t like this, darling. Something strange is going on, and that… butleress… is involved in it somehow,” objected Peter.
Seraphim was spared the necessity of answering by the silent materialization of her black butleress. With perfect truth, Thienete said placidly, “Young Mr. Watson was extremely distressed, by rumors of Mr. McLean’s ghost as you have surmised, and ran blindly for the trees. I pointed out the safest route down off of the mountain to him. In his panic, he could easily have fallen and broken his neck.” The fact that these events happened on two different nights, much less any other circumstances surrounding the latter nocturnal… incident… were seamlessly omitted by the demoness.
Peter Stevenson started to call attention to further discrepancies, but Sera remained reluctant to disclose either that his body had been possessed by a moderately friendly ghost, or that her butleress had been invoked originally from Hell. “Thank you, Thienete,” she sighed. “Peter, I’ll explain everything to your satisfaction, I promise. Eventually. But not just yet, if you please; at the moment I’m tired, and I’d rather not talk about it anymore right now.” Unfortunately, Seraphim was not destined to get her wish.
Sheriff Lyle Morgan of Gilmer County sat behind the broad desk of his office, face as dark as a storm cloud, and might actually rain at any given chance. His forehead puckered and his eyebrows knotted like old tree roots. “Joe,” said the Sheriff, “You’re our only detective in town, we know you, we trust you, but this?” Sheriff Morgan flicked the Detective’s police report. “All this talk about ghosts and demons, and one of the suspects died, hanged himself under our watch, this is too much...” “Sheriff, it was the...suspects’ recounting...might just be hallucination. All of them suffered...some degree of head injuries. Might also be the side effect of their professions, drug induced brain damage or something. Or they are simply acting, hoping for the insanity defense.” Detective Harrison shrugged helplessly, his face was equally dark, if not darker.
“And what about Karl Roxenberg, Alpha of the little flock of black sheep, why did he kill himself?” “To...run away from a worse end, I guess? He spoke with his lawyer, but it did not sound well. We never got a chance for questions, as if...someone doesn’t want him to talk...” The last few words trialed off slowly, and the detective jolted as if he was hit by lightning. Harrison looked up to the Sheriff. “No, Joe, don’t give me that look,” Sheriff Morgan knew the detective too well not to know what he had in mind, and Morgan held out a hand signaling the detective to stop. “The ‘McLean Case’ is a closed case, end of discussion!” “A dead case more likely, Sheriff, we have no leads, no suspects, nothing! But now we have ourselves a little band of merry men, cooking up cocaine in the McLean cellar. They might see things, heck, they might know things. I just can’t get over this feeling in my gut...”
“Last time I checked, feelings do not count as evidence. Joe, I understand, you are a good detective, you want to do your job. But I am the Sheriff and I have to do my job! There’s a lot of pressure on me. Our people mourn for the McLeans, it’s a scar on our heart, and no one will ever forget it! But for the common folks, life must go on. People wish to turn the page, they need the town life back to normal, and we will honor the McLeans by making Ellijay a better and safer place.” The Sheriff explained sincerely, yet meaningfully. “The people wish to turn the page? Or ‘they’ wish to turn to page?” The police detective pointed ceiling-wards, and tried his best to contain his sarcasm inside. “Detective Harrison! That’s quite enough!”
A gentle knock on the door saved the decline from bad to worse. “Come in.” Sheriff Morgan sighed. “Sheriff, we need to go, the meeting starts in ten minutes!” A dark gold head stuck in, and a pair of snake green angular eyes jumped between the two men in the office. “Cal, I’ll be on my way.” Sheriff Morgan exhaled. “Detective Harrison, didn’t see you here.” The green-eyed man sulked a comment. “Deputy Sheriff Callahan,” the detective returned with equal ‘friendliness’.
“Detective Harrison, I understand that you are trying to be a good policeman, but there are many ways to serve our people. Dwelling on the past is not one of them. Our sheriff already has enough worries; you need to learn to walk in other’s shoes, to share the burden. Don’t you have a case to work on?” The deputy Sheriff studied the frustrated look on both men’s faces, and deduced that the detective was bringing up the ‘McLean Case’ again. “I AM working on my case, deputy Sheriff.” the police detective ground Callahan’s title between his teeth. “Good, then why don’t you start with Karl Roxenberg? Then his merry little band of crooks? See if you can get something new from those lunatics, other than ghosts and demons.” “That’s it, Cal, let’s go.” Sheriff Morgan jerked his head towards the door, the deputy Sheriff nodded and walked out. Morgan followed him, and gave the detective a pat on shoulder as he brushed past him.
Outside the police station backdoor, Detective Joe Harrison panted as he kicked a trash can. Judging from the multiple dents, the trash can had been the detective’s punching bag for the past several minutes. After a few more kicks, Joe felt better, and he needed coffee, black coffee, the stronger the better. Normally the detective would go to Mrs. P’s, but for some odd reason, Joe thought of the McLean butleress’s sandwich, and wondered whether she made good coffee or not.
As Detective Joe Harrison pulled into the long drive way of the McLean mansion, he admitted his admiration for the young heiress's courage. Living in a run-down mansion in the mountains, where flora grows like crazy. Trees so tall and vast that one leaf touches another, where there’s no telling between days and nights in those woods! And if you get lost, God save your soul. From older times, the nearby mountains had been the source of inspiration for countless haunted tales, there was no doubt about that. Lil Joe used to brave the forests and hills with his childhood friend Wild Bill, but that was a long time ago.
Joe got out of his car. For reasons unknown even to himself, the detective didn’t make for the front door; instead he wandered towards the trees. Golden light of the morning sun cascaded down the jade green leaves, it was warm and mild, enough to repel the chills in the air, but not the thin mist rolling on the grasses. Dawn had chased away the hauntings of the night. The morning woods felt fresh and were much better lighted.
Joe picked up foot prints, a disturbance on the fallen leaves and dirt. He followed the trace, and no surprise, it took him to the cellar's exterior entrance. Scattered foot prints silently retold the mayhem from last night. Detective Harrison poked the cellar door and it swung inwards. Tiny particles of dust danced in the air, weak daylight half-illuminated the underground space, covering everything with a hazy halo. The cellar, by its look, was as orderly as any cellar of a grand household should be. Layers and layers of shelves lined up along the walls, barrels on top of barrels formed small pyramids. Jars and bottles of fragile glass stored safely according to their shapes and weight. The majority of them were perfect as new, but a random few were broken. Could be a result of the fire, but they looked like they had exploded.
The only abnormality Joe could identify were the tables, they were knocked out of place. So it seemed whatever had happened, Karl and his men didn't put up too much a fight. Or weren’t given a chance at all. As the sun rose higher, the rays of light leaking thought the kitchen door and ceiling holes lengthened. They dispelled the shadows of the corners and revealed more. The floor was a mess of muddy foot prints, grass cuttings and leaf debris, and among them was something shiny. Detective Harrison stuck his head out to get a better look, those were bullet shells. Not one or two, a lot of bullet shells. So they did fire? A woman versus five men in a rain of bullets? How did she do that?
The detective looked to the walls, yes there were bullet holes, mainly concentrated on the side towards the cellar doors. And as his sight drew closer and closer, something caught Joe’s attention. They were two half-arch shaped dents on each side of the solid stone walls, Joe pushed one of the twin doors to one dent, and it fits. That was a huge force. Joe suddenly felt a chill run down his spine, and it made him involuntarily retreat back into sunlight. The detective paced onto the grasses, so focused on his thoughts that no attention was spared for under his feet. He kicked something. Joe bent over and picked up the object; it was a pistol, one with three bullets missing as he examined the clip. 'Only three?' The detective thought, 'I saw at least thirteen in the basement'. Joe folded the pistol into his handkerchief and shoved it down his pocket. Things were getting interesting...
"Detective Harrison, good morning, I was not expecting you this early." "Jesus Christ, Ms. Almundus, you nearly gave me a heart attack!" The detective staggered forward, patting his chest, trying to calm down his racing heart. How the hell did she creep up on him, a trained police detective, like a ghost? Joe could swear he heard no sound, no foot step, as if the McLean butleress had just came out of the thin air. For a moment the detective was sincerely sympathising with his merry band of lunatics, this woman might indeed be a demon from Hell. "Hey Ms. Almundus, is Miss Phelps at home?"
Joe Harrison literally was shoveling bacon, eggs and toast into his mouth, while Thienete thoughtfully handed him a mug of coffee. The detective sipped and let out a loud moan. "Ms. Almundus, you should open a coffee shop! This is the best coffee ever." "Oh detective, the last time you want my butleress's secret recipe, this time you want her to open a coffee shop. I start to wonder, do you work for a police station, or a headhunter company?" Seraphim joked as she amused herself in the detective's devouring his breakfast, while Peter sat across the table, sulking and frowning, and shook his head disapprovingly at the detective.
"So detective, what brings you here?" Seraphim asked. "Right, it’s about last night." Detective Harrison had to quickly swallow a mouthful of unchewed bacon, and ended up choking on it. "Yes, about last night!" Peter chimed in, loud and high pitched. No one was going to take him for a wallflower this time. He was, after all, the boyfriend of the McLean heiress, some kind of unofficial master of the house. He'd had enough that people bypassing him in a conversation, especially with this detective Harrison, who had done nothing but freeloading! "The coon hunters! Last night. That was dangerous and it was trespassing! Two nights in a row! Do Ellijay police ever do things other than eating sandwiches and drinking coffee?"
"Coon hunters?" Detective Harrison raised one eyebrow. "That's what drug dealers are called in the city?" "What are you talking about?" Peter nearly screamed, "Drug dealers? What drug dealers?" "You don't know? Mr. Stevenson?" "Know what? We heard gunshots last night! Gunshots! People went racoon hunting on the McLean property!” Peter continued his complaints. “Did you...see them?” “No, I did not, I heard gunfire....”Of course Mr. Stevenson had no intention of disclosing to the detective that he in fact passed out after the gunfire. “But Seraphim saw them, didn’t you, Sera?” The moment of truth came earlier than the McLean heiress had anticipated, and the smile faded from her face. "Right? Sera?” Peter was by no means a fool; the slight awkwardness in his girlfriend’s expression was enough of a hint for him to know something’s not right. “Sera, is there something you are not telling me?
Seraphim avoided her boyfriend's knife-like glare, she bit her lips. Thienete was trying to say something, but the heiress shook her head. Peter...deserved to know. "Yes, it was drug dealers last night. They broke into our cellar, cleaning up their traces." Seraphim's voice was weighed down by guilt. "Drug dealers? Why didn't you tell me?" Peter yelled again. "I don't want you to worry too much, Peter." "Worry? Sera, that's exactly what I am going to do! How could I do anything else? I cannot stop worrying as long as we are under this God-forsaken roof! You are not worrying about me, you are just being stubborn and headstrong! I cannot and will not allow you to risk our lives again! Sera, we must leave!" "Peter!"
‘Oh this is great.’ Detective Harrison mentally ‘congratulated’ himself. Arguing couples were his biggest nightmare. Joe stood up and cleared his throat, "Ladies and sir, the blame’s all mine. I came at a bad time, please, my apologies. I'll take my leave." The detective ran for the door but turned around half-way. "One more thing, I don't suppose this little trinket belongs to those coon hunters?" He showed them the pistol in his pocket. Seraphim and Thienete exchanged a glance. "Yes, one of the dealers dropped it. I fired three bullets to alert Ms. Phelps," the butleress explained. "I see..." The police detective scanned all three of them in the dining room. "Well, thanks for the breakfast Ms. Almundus, and a pleasant day to you all." The McLean heiress was hiding something, Joe would bet on his honour and the ten years of his career. He had always trusted his gut feelings; yes, there was indeed more to the ‘McLean Case’.
The argument between Seraphim and her boyfriend was relatively tame compared to the domestic disturbances Det. Joe Harrison had seen. Once Peter was over the initial shock of knowing drug dealers had been shooting guns on the estate and ransacking the cellar the night before, he stopped shrieking and restricted himself to speaking loudly and vehemently. Sera never raised her voice… well, not much… but there was definitely a very sharp edge to it. Thienete watched the whole affair like a tennis match. Her employer had made it clear previously that she was not allowed to ‘educate’ Mr. Stevenson in the proper manner of addressing a lady, nor was the butleress to interfere in his and Seraphim’s differences of opinion. Eagle excused himself earlier on the pretext of fetching his clothes and gear, and, like Joe Harrison, fled.
Peter wanted to leave everything in the hands of Mr. Powell and go back to Washington D.C., at least until renovations were complete, if not permanently. Sera categorically refused to do any such thing, and insisted that the mansion was perfectly safe now that the criminals had been arrested. He said that where there were five, there might be more, and one was still at large. At that, his girlfriend had to concede that one man had indeed escaped, but she doubted he had any reason to return to the house, since the police had removed the lab equipment as evidence. Unfortunately, Seraphim couldn’t maintain that Thienete and Uncle Johnny would be able to keep them safe; she found herself backed into a corner. In the end, it was decided that the McLean household would stay in a hotel in town while work was being done to restore the burned out building, a more convenient situation for everyone.
After a proper bath and a bit of elapsed time, Peter felt much more civilized and less peevish. In fact, he was rather smug, judging that he’d gained more than he’d lost from his compromise with Seraphim. Even now, the McLean household was once again enjoying a business lunch with Edwin Powell and discussing the hire of necessary construction and repair workers of various types, Mr. Miller having opened his restaurant early in order to accommodate Thienete’s cooking. The only major difference was that the police detective had been replaced by their new volunteer servant, Eagle.
“There may be some slight difficulty in arranging for sufficient local union labor willing to… er… enter the McLean mansion, much less alter the structure in any way, but I’m sure that’s an obstacle that can be overcome by offering bonus pay, or seeking workers from farther afield where there is less superstition regarding the estate… completely unfounded, obviously,” Mr. Powell was explaining. Eagle hastily stuffed an overly large bite of baked chicken into his mouth and nearly choked. Likewise, Sera refrained from comment, keeping her eyes demurely on her plate. Giggling would be inappropriate. Yet the building itself wasn’t actually haunted.
“Good,” Peter replied. “It’s annoying to have to cater to such silliness, but ignoring it won’t make it go away. We’ll leave the actual employment contracts to you, then.” His steak was delicious, he was feeling mellow, and he could afford to be generous with his girlfriend’s money. “Naturally, Seraphim will want to pick out furnishings for the rooms personally, as well as flooring and paint colors.”
“Of course,” the lawyer agreed cordially. “If I may make a suggestion… in the interim, you and Miss McLean Phelps might prefer to rent a furnished house, a short-term lease you understand, instead of staying in the hotel in Ellijay. I happen to know of such an accommodation, and I believe you would find it more eligible to staff your own kitchen than to continue to appropriate this one.”
At that Sera looked up, interested and alert. “Indeed we would. I can’t imagine why I didn’t think of such an arrangement before. If it’s acceptable to the owner, we’ll view the residence immediately,” she said decisively, “or at least as soon as possible. But if you recommend it, Mr. Powell, I’m sure we’ll be delighted with the house.”
“Hey Martin, got something for me?” Detective Harrison knocked on the door and stuck his head in the evidence room. Martin looked up from his microscope and his slides. Officer Martin McClure had been serving the Ellijay police for nearly forty years. At the age of 56, and with a shoulder injury, Officer McClure was no longer active in the field. But as a reward for his long service, the police station offered him some additional training and put him in charge of the archives and a bit of technician/assistant work, which was surprisingly fitting. Officer McClure himself was a living archive; if you wanted to know something that happened in the past forty years, you'd just need to ask.
“Something, yes, but there’s a lot of contamination. The evidence was not handled according to protocols. Where did you find the pistol again, Joe? The drug dealer hideout you busted last night, in the McLean mansion?” The technician frowned, forehead wrinkled like orange skin. “Yeah...it’s a bit complicated...,” Joe scratched the back of his head apologetically. “Martin, what have you got for me?” “Right, here...” Officer McClure handed Detective Harrison a file with the report. “Like I said, lots of contamination, but I managed to extract three sets of prints...” “Three, you say...did you run them?”
“Yes, I did. One belongs to you, Detective Joseph Michael Harrison Jr.; didn’t think of wearing gloves, or at least using a handkerchief, err?” Martin criticized. “I told you it’s complicated....the other two, who are they?” The detective quickly directed the topic back to the prints. “The second set belongs to the deceased Mr. Karl Roxenberg, chief suspect of your drug case.” “Doesn’t surprise me. And the third?” Joe nodded. “The third, Lil’ Joe, took me a while. Might’ve never found it if it wasn’t me handling the case two years ago. Those last prints belong to a Willie Watson, arrested two years ago for street fighting, drunk and disorderly, served three months in jail. The lad’s got a few bad records for petty theft back when he was still a juvenile, your basic shoplifting, nothing too exciting.”
“Willie Watson...” the detective repeated the name. If his memory served him well, the fifth of Karl’s gang, the runaway’s name was Timmy. “What does he look like?” “An Indian kid. Here.” Martin handed Joe the file and tapped his finger on the record photo. It was a young man...a teenager to be specific, dark skin, slightly hooked nose, shoulder-length hair, quite good-looking, at least comparing to his ‘buddies’. No, this isn’t right. According to Ms. Almundus, Timmy’s a white man, short, and although he wore a hat, she could tell he has a scar running across his left eye. So, they’ve got a sixth that night? At least a person of interest, something he can work with. Then it hit the detective; the McLean bulteress said she fired three bullets. “Hey Martin, no other unidentified prints on the pistol?” “Not that I can find, Lil’ Joe.” That was odd, wasn’t it? Looks like Miss Phelps and her butleress have some explaining to do. But first…
“So, Willie Watson, is it? You know where I can find the kid?” The detective decided to put his priority on the prints’ owner: solid evidence, easy approach. “Try the mine, maybe, he’s Old Man Gail’s grandson.” Martin mused and added, “Oh and don’t follow the name Willie; he’s known as Eagle.” “Thanks Martin, I owe you one.” Joe leaned forward and placed a steaming cup at the technician’s working desk. “Hey Martin, can I ask another favour?” “No, you can’t, but you’re going to pester me like a fly if I say no, so spit it out,” the senior officer replied absently. “Can you match the two prints with whatever we have on the ‘McLean Case’? I know there’s not much, but anything will do.” Martin was bending over, evaluating the smell of the coffee, and the fanning of his hand stopped with a jolt. “This...is about the ‘McLean Case’, is it?” The officer looked up. Joe shrugged but did not comment.
“I know, I get it, Aaron, I mean, deputy sheriff McLean, he was a good man.” “Yeah, he was...” “And to die like that… shot off duty, at home, protecting his family… It’s just not what you expect as a cop. Fine, Lil’ Joe, I’ll see what I can do, but there’s no guarantee, get it?” “Thanks...Martin.”
Seraphim was extremely happy with Mr. Powell's proposed rental house. In fact everyone was pleased, and even Peter stopped complaining. The temporary McLean mansion was a red brick, somewhat boxy building located on the north border of Ellijay, with a large mountain-view balcony on the second floor. It had been constructed in 1928 in the foursquare craftsman style, the owner, a genteel widowed lady called Mrs. Sedgewick, informed them, which meant the plans had been one of the first examples of economical mass production. Of course, the workmanship was still of the highest standard, and the plumbing had been brought up to date.
Downstairs it consisted of a front parlor, dining room, study, living room, kitchen and pantry, as well as a screened-in porch. There was also a half-bathroom under the stairs. Each of the four bedrooms upstairs had its own full bathroom, except for a small room off the master bedroom which could be used as either a sitting room or another bedroom for a child or a servant. For the McLean household, it was a nice, cozy fit. But given Mrs. Sedgewick’s age, the house was too big for her to manage alone, so she’d refurbished it into a holiday vacation home, and the rent supported her own granny flat at the rear of the property.
All the rooms were furnished, a bit old-fashioned to Seraphim's taste, but everything was in good condition. Peter commented positively on the mattress and the feather pillows; indeed, they were practically new. Thienete, on the other hand, was contented with the kitchen, which had been extensively renovated in the mid-1950s, so it boasted all the modern conveniences, if not the latest models of appliances. But the most excited of them was the newest member of the McLean household, Eagle Watson.
The boy was more than glad to move out of that creepy burnt down mansion. The mere sight of it made him uneasy. The nature of his job hadn't changed much, but the working and living conditions took a great leap from hell to heaven, almost literally. Eagle had never enjoyed the company of the white folks. Taking his father for an example, that man seldom talked to Eagle, and when he did, he’d ensure Eagle was reminded how he ‘saved’ him from a ‘backwards life’; whenever Eagle asked about his mother, that would be a scream or slap waiting for him. At the mine, everyone had given the Indian kid the cold shoulder and refused to speak to him at all unless absolutely necessary. As for his last employer, Karl Roxenberg? His dog got to be treated better than Eagle.
But the McLean heiress, Miss Phelps, she’s a nice lady. Never raised her voice and always used ‘please’. Yet there were times Eagle caught a glimpse of her watching his back when he was left alone in a room. Miss Phelp’s boyfriend? Not quite so nice; that man would order Eagle around whenever he gets the chance. Still, at least he was decent. The most intriguing of all was the butleress. To begin with, she gave him goosebumps. Even though Ms. Almundus spared him that night, the road sign silhouette of hers had been branded into his nightmares. The butleress reminded him of the stories his grandpa had told him, about the bad spirits in the woods. However, she let him choose his own room complete with a bathtub; she offered him two sets of clean clothes, white shirt and suit pants, and his usual tee-shirt and jeans; and she called him Mr. Watson until he insisted on her using the name Eagle.
By the time the McLean party had checked out of the hotel in the Eastern part of the town, and gotten settled, with their baggage transferred and put tidily away, Thienete announced that it was nearly time for tea, which she would serve on the screened in porch just beneath Seraphim’s balcony. It was to have been a tete-a-tete arrangement between Sera and her boyfriend, as Eagle’s role was to shadow the butleress and learn as much as possible through observation and assimilation. Thienete Almundus was just laying out the cookies, pastries, and candies, and apologizing for the lack of variety in the refreshments, since she’d had no opportunity to shop on her own, yet. However, Mrs. Sedgewick’s taste in bakeries seemed perfectly adequate.
As though the mention of desserts had summoned him like a magic charm, Det. Harrison rang the doorbell at that very moment, and Eagle was left by himself briefly to distribute jam jars, butter dishes, and pots of honey artistically around the table without getting nervous and breaking anything. To his utter astonishment, he managed quite well, not even spilling any of the condiments. Then, having answered the door herself, the butleress returned, ushering Joe Harrison into the room.
“Ah, Detective Harrison, what brings you here? And if it’s not a terribly pressing matter, perhaps you’d be so kind as to join us for teatime,” Seraphim said, genuinely smiling and hoping to smooth over the negative impression which her dispute with Peter must have left him with that morning. “I believe Thienete has prepared traditional Sweet Tea, as well as iced tea with a twist of lemon or mint.”
“I regret that I’m unable to do that at this time, ma’am, although I’m sure it’s delicious, Ms. Almundus. Unfortunately, I’m here on business. I’ve come to request that young Eagle Watson accompany me back to the town police station, as… a person of interest in an ongoing investigation. Despite his coppery tan skin, Eagle blenched. “You’re a difficult person to locate, Mr. Watson,” Joe Harrison remarked in his laid-back style. “I certainly didn’t expect to find you pouring tea on Ms. McLean Phelps’s sunporch du jour, of all places. It’s a good thing I drove out to talk to your grandfather, anyway, isn’t it?” He favored everyone with an easy smile. "By the way, I’m happy to see Mrs. Sedgewick's house in good hands."
"Detective Harrison, with what charge, may I ask, are you planning to arrest my domestic staff?" Conversely, the welcoming smile faded from Seraphim's face. Why must every meeting of theirs end in disaster? She looked to Peter, who darted her a glare, like saying 'I told you so'. Of course Mr. Stevenson felt the dying need of a valet, but when trouble came up, he'd be the first to make sure he wasn’t part of it.
"Oh now, Miz Phelps, no one said 'arrest', I just need to ask a few questions, that's all." The detective shrugged. "Can't it be done here?" she demanded. Half-apologetically, Joe Harrison explained, "You see Miss Phelps...the thing is, that pistol we found on your property, in other words, a drug-related crime scene, Mr. Watson's fingerprints are on it. We really feel the necessity of an in depth investigation." "Many could have touched the gun; it is not considered illegal, is it?" The bulteress's marble-esque composure was broken by a frown. Privately, she admitted her miscalculation of the 'modern technology', and what the police could establish as evidence these days.
“Absolutely not, Ms. Almundus, and that brings up another question: why can't we find your fingerprints on the firearm? You did fire three bullets, yes?" inquired Det. Harrison. "I was wearing gloves," Thienete responded, outwardly calm again. "You don't say..." Now, Joe did not remember seeing gloves on her hands when they arrived at the scene. She could have removed her gloves prior to their arrival, but why? "So can you explain why Mr. Watson's prints are found on the pistol?" "No," was her answer after a moment of thought. "Then, we require the cooperation of Mr. Watson, ma'am; thank you for your understanding." "I object," insisted Thienete. Seraphim grabbed her butleress's arm lightly and shook her head.
"I'll...I'll go..." Eagle stepped forward, lifting his chin and attempting to act braver than he felt. If put in a similar scenario, Karl would gladly dump all the blame on him, but they, Miss Phelps and Ms. Almundus, they stood up for him. Eagle would not hide behind women. It was not his first time dealing with the cops, if he kept his mouth shut tight...but the others in Karl's gang knew him, they'd testify against him. He sighed. So much for the hope of starting anew. Eagle had no idea what future had in store for him, but guessed grandpa Gail was right: bad deeds do come back to you. He’d wanted to make his grandfather proud, and justify his faith. Still, when he happened to glance her way, the butleress’s normally impassive face held a tension that seemed to be trying to communicate something to him… maybe not to say too much?
"Thank you Mr. Watson, and Ms. Almundus, your cookies smell delightful!" The detective grabbed a handful from the plate and shoved them down into his pocket, before once again apologizing for his inadvertent rudeness in interrupting their… tea, he couldn’t quite call it a meal... and bidding the trio farewell. "Stubborn should be the McLeans' middle name," Joe commented under his breath, as he escorted Eagle through the front door and out to his car.
Joe Harrison soon found himself expanding that statement to anyone the McLeans’ took into their household; they were all as stubborn as mules. Eagle knew his fingerprints had been found on the weapon next to the mansion’s cellar, but, conscious of Ms. Almundus’s last, cautionary look at him, he resolutely refused to say anything without the advice of his lawyer or other official representative. The detective had already explained to the boy twice, that since he wasn’t under arrest, the courts didn’t have to provide him with a defense attorney. Nevertheless, the kid remained adamantly silent.
Frustrated and fresh out of ideas, Det. Harrison decided to let Eagle Watson simmer in a jail cell for a while, and rethink his obstinacy. Unfortunately, the only free cell available was the one in which Karl Roxenberg had died. It had been gone over thoroughly, and was now clean and approved for usage again. Of course, the Indian kid didn’t know where Karl had been found hanging, perhaps not even that he was dead, so it shouldn’t bother him any. Legally, Joe Harrison could only detain Eagle for 24 hours without charging him of a crime; he had to get the boy to talk before that time elapsed. Maybe seeing the inside of a jail cell again would render him more… loquacious.
"All right, Mr. Watson, congratulations, you just won a one night free accommodation in one of our lovely cells." Joe pushed his chair bask while still sitting on it; the chair legs screeched along the floor. "What? You can't put me in a cell!" Eagle protested loudly. "Yes we can, unless you’re ready to talk." The detective tried again, hopefully, but the boy went quiet immediately. "All right, off you go kid, we don't have all day.
But the instant Eagle was more or less pushed across the threshold and into the corridor leading to the cell, a very strange thing happened, at least as far as Det. Joe Harrison was concerned. The lad paled beneath his normal sun-kissed brown, nostrils flared, and, with eyes as big as platters, flattened himself against the wall. His voice shook as he immediately said, “I… I’d like to make my phone call now. Please!” Desperate as the boy seemed to be to get out of there, he didn’t turn his back to the cells ahead, but rather sidled toward still open door to the main police headquarters, backing out of it and half-retreating behind Joe, unconcerned at the moment about looking cool.
Joe had to admit to himself that he was curious about the kid’s phone call, however it must have been to his grandfather… well, he heard the word ‘grandpa’ in English, so he knew it was… because it was in ( )oken Cherokee, with lots of interspersed English words, but not enough of them that he could follow the conversation. ‘Miss Seraphim’ was mentioned, and possibly the noun ‘fiddle’, yet Det. Harrison couldn’t be completely sure since Eagle was agitated and talking fast while nearly whispering.
Eagle knew the white police detective wouldn’t believe him, but he felt he should at least make an effort, and more importantly, get his protest logged onto the official record. “Det. Harrison, sir,” the boy said, after putting down the telephone receiver, “I don’t know what’s at the end of that hallway, but it runs counter to my spiritual beliefs to find out, especially like this, alone, at night, and unprepared by a shaman to face an ordeal. Please, sir, I strongly request that you don’t imprison me there. I’ll stay quietly and cooperatively somewhere else, just not there.”
“Listen, kid, I’m sorry, but that’s where our holding cells are, and we can’t very well lock you in our breakroom; it’s against fire safety regulations, as well as damned inconvenient. I suggest you just settle down and accept our hospitality, such as it is,” Joe Harrison told him, weary from attempting to persuade the Indian youth to give an honest statement, and tired of hearing about the supernatural from the ‘Lunatic Trio’. Funny that Eagle should have started that before he even knew what happened to Karl Roxenberg, or laid eyes on the three nutcases currently complicating Lil’ Joe’s paperwork. The boy did appear sincerely frightened, but there was no avoiding it. There was nowhere else to put him.
So Eagle was escorted to the holding cells by Detective Harrison. Considering Ellijay’s population, one would picture the size of its police station. They have four cells in total, three were occupied by the ‘Lunatic Trio’, Luke, Roc and Roy. All of them cackled into a laugh when they saw the boy walk into the corridor. "Hey there Chicken, your turn as well," Luke slammed on the bars, shouting. "There, there, Eagle boy, come and join us." The twins giggled, echoed between each other.
"You guys know him?" Detective Harrison staggered a step backwards as he was caught off guard. Luke, Roc and Roy worked hard to earn the nickname ‘Lunatic Trio’; they had been mumble-jumbling since the night of their arrest, and their condition went downhill ever since, especially after Karl hanged himself. "Yes, Eagle Watson, you're on our boat, and if we're going down, you're going with us." Luke ground his teeth, "You took her into the woods that night. Why didn't you kill her? Or did you? But she came back, didn’t she? She came back and she's going to get us all!" "The devil took Karl, we're all going to die!" The twins hissed hysterically. "Enough, quiet, all of you!" Joe banged on the cell doors. Despite their gibberish, the trio did speak something useful. Blood drained from Eagle's face. "Kid, you're one of them?" The detective turned his head to Eagle, who bit his lips and said nothing.
"All right Willie Watson, you are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you." Joe read Eagle his rights and sighed. Shouldn't he be happy? Maybe, but when you have worked in law enforcement long enough, you knew a person by just one look. A bad seed or somebody who made mistakes. This boy was the latter. "Detective Harrison, what happened to Mr. Roxenberg, I mean, Karl?" Before Joe gave an official answer, Luke chimed in. "He danced a little dance for us, chicken, he danced a gallows-dance, he hanged from the devil’s snake."
"Karl, he hanged himself with a belt." The detective explained, "Kid, you saw what your partners have become. Anything you know, anything you can offer us, can also benefit yourself." Eagle, despite his shaking, looked into Joe's eyes for a long time and shook his head. "Fine, have a think overnight, kid." With that said, the detective closed the door. Mind full of his own concerns, Eagle didn’t even worry about the evil he’d sensed at the entrance to the hallway that had led him here.
Eagle slouched on the cell bed. ‘That's it’, he thought, ‘I’m going to jail’. No more future plans, no more second chances for him. The boy stared into the ceiling wall; there were many things he regretted, but leaving his father's house was not one of them. That was, in fact, the best thing he ever did. Eagle spent the majority of his teenager-hood as a street urchin. There was not many ways of life for an uneducated coloured boy, and a man gotta feed himself. A friend of a friend hooked him up with Timmy, and Eagle ran a few errands for him, simple tasks but good pay. Eagle was too young to understand ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’ at that time, and when he finally did, it was too late.
The young Watson kid thought of leaving time and time again, especially after he got in touch with his grandpa Gail. Old Man Gail, stubborn Indian, all sharp stares and he never smiles. Grandpa Gail warned him, but there was nothing he can do. The gang behind Timmy runs vast and deep, there was no quitting, only death. And they'd leave Grandpa Gail's mine alone as long as Eagle works for them. "Grandpa, I am sorry." Tears welled out of Eagle’s eyes, he was exhausted, emotionally and physically. Had he realized it, being in that cell was spiritually fatiguing as well. His sight became hazy, his mind drifted away and eventually, sleep consumed him.
Eagle was awakened by a gentle touch on his face, at first he thought nothing of it, might be a bug. So he scratched his face and went back to sleep. Then the touch came again, and again, and again. ‘What the...’ His annoyance grew with every touch, and finally the boy slapped on his face when the touch came again. ‘Ouch’, Eagle cried, the slap did nothing but knock the sleepiness out of his head. The boy looked around, the only light source of the detention area was the pale fluorescent lamp in the corridor, so one end of the cell was brighter than the other. Between the light and shadow something was dangling from the ceiling, something long and black. What was it? A sack, a curtain? No. Eagle’s confusion was soon engulfed by fear. It was a man, hanging from the ceiling, twitching.
The boy wanted to scream, but all he could make was a gargling sound. He couldn’t move, couldn’t even blink his eyes, like his mind was awake but his body still sleeps. There was nothing he can do but to watch the man turning, degree by degree, until they came face to face. The man had a purple face, eyes bulging from his sockets and tongue protruding from his mouth. His face was twisted, distorted, and despite that Eagle recognised that face, it was Karl Roxenberg. Then came the realization that chilled Eagle to the bone: the light touch he felt was Karl's feet sweeping across his face. A cry of horror broke the silence of the night.