The Dead and the Detective: A chapter from the Fantasy Book Project

The Police Station was only thirty minutes from the perp’s residence, just down the river. It was an older house, long past its prime. Detective Chell Roberts was convinced that it had taken them so long to find him because he was so smart. The perp had been so close to her this whole time. He was a librarian by all accounts and intelligent, very intelligent.

She thought that she may have checked a book out from him once. They had been on Vishna Abbot’s trail for over a year now but hadn’t known that name until just yesterday. She riffled through the file that was sitting on her lap as the little carriage she was in bumped down the road, the lights and siren were not on. They were hoping to take Vishna by surprise at home.

He should be home from the library at Riggleman Manor by now, he worked there till about 4:00 p.m. each day, or so her informants had told her. She glanced at her watch, it was 5:01 p.m., and then looked over to her partner, Jason Blount. He sat on the seat beside her in the back of the police carriage, its engine purring along down the cobbled street. He was a good man, but at times much too intellectual for her, and too stern to boot, but he was a good cop. He glanced over at her and smiled. For all that negative, she couldn’t help but feel like they had gotten closer while on this case.

The pictures from the file were dark, but she could see the man’s face, and slicked-back hair, she thought it must be blond, hard to tell with a black and white photo, but the color ones were expensive and you could only get the good film from Repton up North in Haxby. He was tall though, and wiry. “You ready for this?” she asked, dropping the folder to her lap.

He turned to her, his trimmed mustache looking like a little fuzzy worm on his upper lip, it was cute. “Yeah, it’s about time we got this creep. He’s been out here too long pulling this crap.” He shook his head mournfully, “I’m just sorry Jackson had to go as he did. Not fair that.”

Officer Jackson Drake had been the lead investigator on this case, and his ashes had been found in his apartment, along with a great deal of blood. They had known it was the Butcher of Charles Gate because the man had left a note telling the police to back off, or more of them would end up the same way. Chell had requested the case the very next day and that had been five months ago.

Now they were sure they had their suspect nearly in hand. Several solid leads had led them to the little house down by the river just a few blocks from Riggleman Manner, where the library Vishna worked at was located. As they pulled up, a block from the house, use they were surprised by its age, it was one of the classic homes, red brick with white columns along the front porch. It wasn’t large, but it certainly was nicer than what Chell herself lived in. Getting out of the carriage, she pulled her revolver from the leather holster at her hip and checked the chambers.

“Let’s make sure to do this safely, right?” she said. “Victor, Mazy, Pullo; you all head around to the back. Jason and Teller, you two are with me here at the front. The house was dark, which seemed odd. He should already be home. Chell kicked in the front door, “Police! Come out from where you are with your hands where I can see them, then do not move!” She heard the backdoor team enter and shout a similar phrase, but there was nothing, no sounds or shouts, just nothing.

“Maybe he isn’t home yet?” Jason asked.

“Maybe, but let’s be careful. Remember this is the guy who took out Jackson and may be responsible for those disappearances. We don’t know what he’s capable of. So just stay alert.” Chell moved into the entryway of the house, being careful to mark the corners of each room she moved into. After several minutes, the back team had checked upstairs and found nothing and her team had swept the entire downstairs, both teams met in the kitchen and Chell had the backdoor team and Teller remain upstairs and watch for him to return, while she and Jason checked in the basement.

“Dang, creepy right?” Jason said as they moved into the basement.

“Very,” Chell said, as she lit a lantern on her belt. Moving down the stairs and onto the stone floor below, the darkness wafted back away from her light. There were shelves upon shelves creating a maze of junk. As they searched among the shelves, a rancid smell seemed to permeate the whole of the area. They both came together near a larger shelf along the back wall, more ornate than the rest of the room.

“What are the chances this is a secret entrance to some sort of evil lair or something?” Jason asked.

Chell inwardly groaned and rolled her eyes. “You read too many mystery novels, Jason. It’s never that easy.”

Jason reached out to a large book on the shelf labeled Fontello James, a popular author in Warrington, and pulled on the spine of the book as a joke. As he did, there was a large clank and then the section of the shelf they were standing in front of slid back and swung open, revealing a passage moving further under the house.

“I totally knew that was there,” Jason said, smirking.

Chell cocked her head to the side, giving Jason an odd look for the odd comment. He had that way about him, a sort of joking confidence that she was starting to appreciate. She motioned for him to come with her as she entered the revealed passage. It wasn’t a long passage, but soon it became clear where the smell was coming from.

They opened the door and walked down three short steps into a large circular room filled with ash, nearly three feet deep in most places. Throughout the ash, there were pieces of charred clothing and bits of bone and hair.

“This is a grave,” Chell said, covering her mouth with her hand. “These are all dead people.”

Jason retched, emptying the contents of his stomach. Maybe he wasn’t that cute. “I figured that out,” he said wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. She put her hand on his shoulder.

“You gonna be, okay?”

He nodded his head, “Yeah, yeah. I’m fine now. Just a little much all at once, right?”

They walked on through the ash and entered a widened hall with chains hanging from the rafters on the ceiling. From those chains hung at least ten creatures; two brown dogs, four humans, two more Mangalit, a Flemi oddly enough, and finally a Keyoten. All of them had much of their skin peeled away from their bodies and they all groaned, unconscious, but still alive apparently.

Chell checked one of the humans and his face came up to look at her, but there were no eyes in his head. He tried to speak, but his tongue had been cut out apparently so he just groaned.

A shot rang out above. Chell and Jason looked at each other, then bolted for the door. As they rounded the top of the stairs, they were surprised to find their perp sitting on the floor. Mazy stood over him with her baton rapping against the palm of her hand. Pullo was placing cuffs on Vishna.

He didn’t even know we were in here till it was too late. He tried to take a shot at us, but I think he was so surprised by us, that he shot a hole in the ceiling.” Pullo said smiling over at Chell and Jason.

“You’re a bunch of fools, do you know who I am?” Vishna said. “I work for Riggleman Manor, for the Queen’s library!”

Chell smiled at him. “We finally got you, you murdering psychopath! We found your little room downstairs, you are going away for the rest of your life, you sicko.”

Vishna smiled back at her. “Do you think this is the end of the game?” he said. “This is only the start of the game. With everything that happened today, the game is just beginning. I can assure you that.” He began to laugh, a chuckle at first and then a belting guffaw. Chell nodded for the other officers to take him out to the carriages, then turned back to Victor. “Victor, head out and get a message to the local hospital, we are going to need medical assistance. I don’t know if anyone down there is going to survive, and maybe that’s for the best.” She ran the back of her hand over her forehead. Several other officers were heading down into the basement now as well.

“Why was he torturing people like that?” Jason asked a sneer twisting his mouth.

“He was trying to see how close he could get to combustion without having it happen. I read about some crazy scientist sixty years or so ago who did the same thing, tortured people to the point they would combust, and recorded all the data. Said he was trying to save lives by experimenting on people. He found that Brown Dogs combusted easier than Kyoten for some reason. Killed a couple hundred of each though to obtain that data. He worked for the old King of Leyburn, Xanben Rothchild before the people revolted up there and deposed him.” She patted Jason on the shoulder.

“Nasty bit of business that, but I’m wondering if Vishna here has outdone him. That room downstairs was full of ash. How many people would it take to make a twenty-foot by twenty-foot room have three feet of ash in it? Thousands? I don’t know, but he’s one sick guy.” They walked out of the house as the medical team rushed past them.

“Are you heading back home now then?” Chell asked, a hint of hope in her voice. Hope that he might not.

“Yeah, Zell is waiting on me, she gets worried when she knows I’m going on a raid. I guess I’ll see you in the morning then, yeah?” He smiled at her.

“Yeah, I’ll see you in the morning, get some rest.” She turned and headed back to the carriages. She hadn’t taken more than five steps before a frown crossed her face. She had wanted him to spend more time with her, but that was stupid. He was married, and besides, he was her partner. Everyone knew that partners couldn’t be more than that, it never worked out. She grabbed the handle of the carriage and stopped. He was married. He had kids. It wasn’t right, these feelings she had. She needed to get her head on straight.

Backing out of the parking spot, she decided to head down to the local pub, a place called the Pig-Pen. They had good coffee and after what she had seen, she needed something to clear her head. It was going to be a long week.

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