The story resumes about six months later, Saturday October 8, a cold and drizzly evening.
The battle at the hospital was portrayed as an experimental light aircraft with a pilot on drugs crashing into the hospital, getting into an addled gunfight with security, then trying to fly away and crashing. A pilot was arrested, and after he proclaimed his innocence loudly, hung himself in his jail cell a week later. Case closed.
Terry Fox lost his job with the investigative firm but was hired by Singleton, and is continuing to do basic investigations. Truc still works for the same company, and still protects the Havershaums. Emilia is back in university classes at Marlbeth, splitting her time between off-campus housing and the family mansion in Shroud Ridge.
Jason had some physical therapy and recovery from being shot a few times. In the meantime, Tyriex died, and Alex Havershaum bought his mansion and kept Jason on as family doctor. When he was fully recovered, Jason traveled to Japan to talk to his grandfather about the supernatural, but found the discussion too vague and philosophical to be satisfying.
On that rainy night, they met at the Armory, a pub in Shroud Ridge, to celebrate Jason’s return. A few others attended the celebration, but didn’t follow when Truc, Emilia, and Jason decided to turn it into a pub crawl. (Shortly after the “Thong Song” came on and there may have been dancing.) Terry joined them as they left, already well into the celebration before he arrived.
When they had finished up around midnight at the Thatchery Pub, Truc called to the house to have backup bring an SUV to pick them up, as he was having trouble keeping everyone together.
Quoth the Raven, “Check It Out”
While they waited, they spotted a cheeky white raven who seemed to want them to follow it. Emilia did, and the others followed.
The raven flew to the third floor of a nearby parking structure. While the others looked for an elevator, Jason ran up the stairs. He found himself alone on the third floor, where there were no cars, and only one light flipped on; like a spotlight, it illuminated an old man laying on the ground, wearing only his underwear.
The others caught up as Jason checked the old man’s vitals; the old man woke up, confused. His last memory was being in his apartment. He was shocked to read the message written on the ceiling above him: “Reveal Your Secret.” He did NOT want to go somewhere more comfortable, as he revealed he knew he had been monitored and recorded and tracked everywhere. They noticed that the security cameras had been left in place for this level, but crushed. He told his tale as quickly as he could.
The Coroner’s Tale
His name was Dr. Henry Bills, he was the head coroner for the morgue Downtown, a massive complex with something like 500 drawers. Six suspicious corpses had come in lately. Four of them were cops, and Police Commissioner Baird, top cop in the city, leaned on him to diagnose the cause of death as “heart attack” or something like it, and not mention any unusual traits.
The other two were reporters for the Grifton Tribune, and Fr. Silva, a well connected (and persuasive) priest talked him into covering those up.
Naturally, once he suppressed details on one death, that could get him in serious trouble, so blackmail was on the table and further deaths had to have details adjusted too.
Those six corpses had hearts that were like frozen pulled pork; shredded with minimal sign of strain on rib bones, then frozen solid (or nearly solid) while the rest of the body was warm. The coroner had no idea what could do that to a person.
The group lent him clothing, and by now the SUV from the Havershaums was waiting for them, so they escorted him to the SUV and let him dress in the backup outfit there. Rather than just putting him in a cab, they drove him Downtown, letting him off a couple blocks from his home. He splashed himself with whiskey and pretended to be drunk, and headed home. They returned to Shroud Ridge.
Truc Does Research
They spent the rest of the night in the pool house, which had guest rooms and a kitchenette and all the amenities. Truc stayed up later, doing some research on the reporters. Debra Ayers, a Grifton Tribune reporter who worked the city beat, printed a story on September 22 about three corpses found in a basement with possible signs of ritual killings. Duncan Stanley found the bodies, a beat cop who went out of his way at the frantic request of a worried mother.
Interestingly enough, none of the other papers ran with the story, it didn’t get the follow-up that Ayers promised, and it seemed to vanish off the paper’s web site. Snopes was looking into it, to see if it was a legitimate story or a clever photoshop job, but had not concluded their investigation as to whether the story was an internet hoax.
Also, Ivy Moyers, editor supervising Debra Ayers, was also killed. The beat cop in the story, Duncan Stanley, died on 9.23. Debra Ayers died on 9.29. Ivy Moyers died 10.2.
Truc also looked into Moyers, and found an interview after she got a journalism award, that she was in favor of information getting people passionate once they understood the stakes, so they would take action. She seemed to be one of the agitators and progressives, and she had a rep for standing behind her reporters if they took on difficult stories.
Eventually Truc passed out too.
The Next Morning
Terry gleefully re-heated the pizza rolls that were ready too late last night, after those who wanted them passed out. He started researching into police issues, while Emilia put together a “murder board” with timelines and supporting information on the wall with push pins raided from the house’s office supplies. She also arranged for lunch.
Jason, back from his grueling morning run, went up to the house to take care of his bills and reports and adult matters. Truc did some research into Blakelee West and any recent news stories about that neighborhood.
Jason got caught up on adulting, but didn’t find anything obviously related to the case in the materials that gathered while he was in Japan.
Truc Checks Out Blakelee
As a long-time Grifton resident, Truc knew about Blakelee West. It was a massive construction project with hundreds of homes built by three major construction companies, to support the city’s booming growth. The housing development anchored around Candlemach Cathedral, which was at the center of what used to be the town Blakelee that got annexed into Grifton city limits. The construction was almost done, and people were moving into homes; that’s when the illnesses and cancer started. A few short years later, class action suits about carcinogenic wood treatments and asbestos in the homes were leveled at the construction companies, who dove into bankruptcy and dissolution as the lawsuits tried to track through the maze of restructuring to find people responsible.
The whole neighborhood had to be abandoned, but no one would spend the money to have the toxic houses demolished, so they sit empty to this day about thirty years later. Meanwhile, Candlemach Cathedral’s fortunes have ebbed and flowed, but it has always been tied to money from the Nine, the founding families of Grifton, all Catholic. It did close its doors a couple times, but always the Nine brought it back. It stood in the middle of the abandoned suburb, a four story skyline unto itself.
Weary from the night before, all the news stories he could dig up were the usual sparring and posturing of city council members insisting something must be done, but confident that the plans of their rivals were fiscally irresponsible. And he got a somewhat decent map, showing the dead spot near the center of the city.
Terry Checks Out Cops
The most recent death was yesterday, the same day they talked to the coroner. Harris Bowman was famous as a hero cop, who bends rules all the time but has powerful friends and powerful enemies. Chatter around the station was he took on the case of the sacrifices found in Blakelee West, with the support of his Commissioner (one of three that support the Chief Commissioner Baird.)
Commissioner Dan Hurley died on 10.5, and Bowman died on 10.8. Hurley was known for sticking up for his cops and supporting their investigation, deflecting as much press and political heat as possible.
After a delicious lunch, they discussed their next moves. Jason convinced Terry that Singleton would want to know about this supernatural business going on in his backyard, so Terry agreed to consolidate their research thus far into a “jacket” to give the lawyer, omitting the part about the white raven and the coroner’s confession.
The others decided to go for a field trip to Candlemach Cathedral. It was Sunday afternoon, after all. They loaded up in the SUV and Truc drove them out to Blakelee West. He took the wrong exit from a roundabout at one point, and ended up stuck driving through the misty abandoned neighborhood, unable to get back to the main road; the only living thing they saw was a stray dog in the tall grass, but the silence clung to them even when they made it back to the thoroughfare and reached the cathedral.
They were impressed by the sheer scope and scale of the building. Entering, they saw there was the traditional poor box, and also a credit card swiping station for those who wanted to donate electronically. Entering the massive space for a congregation of at least 500, they saw a half dozen people lingering to pray or waiting to confess. (Mass had been in the morning.)
Emelia lit a candle to remember her mother, and meditated a bit; she had a mild vision of her mother’s ghost, aflame with power in this place. Jason chose not to mediate, wary of the priest’s influence.
They were approached by the priest, who introduced himself as Fr. Silva. They exchanged a glance, as Fr. Silva was the one who told the coroner to obscure the true cause of death on the two reporters. They didn’t want to confess, but they did want to talk about the church’s history. He agreed, taking them to the parsonage next door.
They passed the churchyard, which was planned out to house hundreds of graves, but only had a few dozen. The rest was maintained like a golf course, green and tidy.
The priest gave them tea and cookies, and a brochure about the cathedral, as well as giving Emilia a coffee table book with pictures and history and such (which Truc suspiciously intercepted, less and less comfortable with the priest as time went on.)
The priest told them a charming tale of Isaac Candlemach, who had a vision in 1942 that a cathedral was needed her to do the work of the Lord. He burned through his family’s fortune building it even in wartime, and it took 30 years to get it presentable. Meanwhile the Blakelee family fortunes were depleted in building up the town around the cathedral. Their hard work paid off with the massive residential zoning, but when that fell apart and destroyed everyone’s fortunes, the Tankeller family (one of the Nine) doubled down on beautification of the cathedral and grounds, a stubborn symbol that there was yet hope for Blakelee West to be what the visionaries saw in its potential. Which, sadly, has not yet materialized.
Truc was pressing to leave, so they said goodbye to Fr. Silva and headed back to the SUV, trading stories and shivers. On the way home Emilia paged through the book, noting that the granite was mined from below the building foundations, so it stretched down as it stretched up. Many died in the construction. The mines were intended to be catacombs, but their usage was shifted to wine cellars.
They ate together in the pool house, pondering next moves. After supper, there was a sharp rap on the glass, and they saw a box on the ground in front of the door. The glass wall means they would have seen anyone who put it there. Truc called security, and in reviewing the footage, the box is not there, then it is. No one was seen on the grounds. They save the footage from that time from all the cameras for later review.
Truc brought the box in and opened it, and Emilia pulled out the four parchment pages that looked ripped from a big book. She recognized the writing as 14th century Latin, and both she and Jason recognized that it was a spell from a grimore. Emilia’s hands shook as she realized she held pages from a rare translation of the Malleus Maleficarum. She quickly applied herself to figure out what the spell was supposed to do.
Of course. It was a spell to summon the spirit of the dead, and compel it to go slay a living target.