Secrets of the Dead
There was silence, but no peace could be found within the blood stained walls of the home. Sloan stood staring at the body hanging from the ceiling. He could feel a sensation of cold engulfing him as a drop of blood fell from the woman’s face and landed on the living room floor. The cold penetrated his skin and shot through his body. It filled his veins as he clenched his fists nervously.
“What do you think Sloan?” Markus asked as he turned to his partner.
Sloan continued to stare at the woman, her hands and feet nailed to the ceiling causing her body to hang awkwardly at the waist. Her clothes were ripped and bloodied, revealing large knife wounds across her body.
“Stabbed,” Sloan stated slowly. “Multiple times.”
Markus began walking towards Sloan. “You are not a homicide detective anymore Sloan, think past the obvious evidence.”
Sloan ran his hand through his hair as he racked his brain to figure out what Markus was leading him towards. He had been to too many murders to keep track of, but this crime scene was in no way ordinary. There was a reason he and Markus had been called to this particular home, because they were no ordinary detectives.
The hair on Sloan’s neck stood up as his body fought against the cold that continued to eat away at him.
“So?” Markus asked impatiently. “What do you think?”
Sloan hesitated as he breathed in and something about the air around him made his senses go into over drive. “I think, we are not alone.”
Markus smirked. “That’s better.”
The sound of splintering wood echoed down the stair case.
“Upstairs!” Markus commanded.
The detectives raced for the stairs as they ran to the upper landing, their trench coats whirling behind them. Markus nodded to Sloan to take the left hallway as he started down the right.
Sloan slowly pulled his right sleeve up, exposing the silver gauntlet wrapped around his forearm. As he clenched his hand into a fist he could feel energy from the armor pulsing through his fingers. The words “Pax” that were engraved on the gauntlet began to glow blue, he could feel the power held within it yearning to be let loose. As the blue light reflected off of the glass picture frames that lined the hallway, Sloan could sense the cold within the air growing stronger. His footsteps barely made a sound as he slowly approached the end of the hallway where a door hung from its hinges, the moulding laying in pieces on the wood floor.
His lungs burned as he took a deep breath in, the air around him made it feel as though he had just stepped out onto an arctic tundra. As he breathed out a cloud of vapor rose toward the ceiling. Reaching out with his left hand to push past the damaged door, he held his right hand at the ready. Focusing his thoughts on what may lay behind the door and what he needed to do he burst into the room, sending the door crashing to the ground. Sloan lifted his clenched right hand in front of him as his mind processed the room around him.
“Window across from the door, closet to the left, dresser to the right, bed against the far wall.” Sloan thought to himself as he catalogued each item, then ignoring everything that did not pose an immediate threat. All of his attention had narrowed in on the center of the room as the image of a male came in and out of view.
The man’s fists were clenched, his shoulders heaving as he panted. His body was translucent although it seemed to be glowing red. The man’s face contorted in rage.
“Get out of here!” he growled. “I am never leaving this place!”
“Your freedom is hereby revoked by the Order of the Mortis,” Sloan stated with authority. His voice was strong but his heart raced with anticipation. “You have broken the sacred pact of the dead by making yourself known to living.”
A smile spread across the man’s face as he began to laugh.
“Oh, I didn’t just expose myself to the living.”
“Obviously,” Sloan replied with clenched teeth, the image of the woman hanging from the ceiling still fresh in his mind.
“Did you like my handy work?” the man asked with a smirk. “I could almost feel that woman’s husband’s heart breaking as I made him stab her over and over again. It was so invigorating!”
“Enough!” Sloan barked. “Your time among the living is over!”
The smile on the man’s face slowly disappeared.
“I don’t think so.”
Before Sloan had a chance to react, there was a flash of red and the man was gone. Sloan felt a shot of cold to his chest as he was flung across the room into the dresser. The wood drawers cracked under the force as he fell forward onto the floor. He gasped as his lungs filled with cold air. His head began to ache as he sensed an energy getting closer. He lifted his right hand and opened his closed fist. Chains surrounded in blue light shot from his palm and began wrapping around the air in front of him. He continued to focus on the chains as they tightened and the blue light grew brighter. The man slowly began to appear before him, crying out in anger as he fought against the chains.
“I will not go!” he screamed.
Sloan slowly stood as pain shot through his body from the impact with the dresser. He kept his right hand raised as he closed his hand around the chains.
“You hypocrite,” the man growled. “How dare you condemn others for doing what you do every day!”
Sloan glared at the man as he circled around to the door.
“What are you talking about?” Sloan questioned.
Blue light erupted from the chains as the man cried out and was engulfed in the energy. Sloan could feel the cold dissipating as the light died down and he was left standing alone in the room.
Markus entered the room behind him with his own gauntleted hand raised. He slowly lowered his hand as he surveyed the room.
“Well done rookie!” Markus laughed. “Incredible.”
Sloan lowered his hand as he turned his palm over and looked at where the chains had just been. He could still feel trickles of energy receding into the gauntlet.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” Markus asked as he patted Sloan on the back.
“Yeah,” Sloan replied. “It was a man, he said he made the husband kill his wife.”
“He probably used to live here,” Markus said as he turned to leave the room. “Just didn’t want to leave when he stopped living.”
Sloan followed behind Markus as they made their way down the hallway to the stairs and through the destroyed living room.
“Shouldn’t we try and get her down?” Sloan asked as he walked past the woman’s body still dripping blood into the growing pool of red on the floor.
“Not our job.” Markus replied. “We have done what we came here to do.”
They walked out the front door onto the city street as a heavy rain fell around them. Uniformed police officers stood anxiously by their police cars, waiting for the detectives.
“So, you think the husband did it?” one of the police officers asked.
Markus looked into the back of the police car, the husband’s gaze was locked straight ahead, his eyes filled with tears.
“Yeah, looks that way.”
The police officer nodded.
Markus walked away from the car as Sloan looked at the innocent man in the back of the police car, pain strewn across his face.
“You coming?” Markus asked as he held the police tape up at the edge of the crime scene, waiting for Sloan.
Sloan sighed and walked over to Markus as they both got into a black sport utility vehicle parked down the street. As both doors closed and Markus started the engine Sloan looked over at him.
“How can we do this?” he asked in frustration.
“Do what?” Markus replied as he pulled the vehicle out onto the street.
“He watched his wife being slaughtered by his own hand, with no way of stopping himself and now he will have to live with everyone thinking he actually did it?”
Markus was silent as the windshield wipers squeaked across the windshield.
“He will know he didn’t do it.” Markus replied as he stared through the windshield at the falling rain.
“Will he?” Sloan asked angrily. “How long will it take with everyone blaming him until he starts to question that?”
“You are losing sight of what our job is.” Markus replied. “You need to separate yourself from thinking about that kind of stuff. That’s the only way you can survive this job.”
Sloan sighed as he turned to look out the passenger window. Markus seemed somewhat disconnected from anything, and he was slowly starting to realize why. Markus was right, he wouldn’t survive if he had to live with the knowledge of what they had to do in order to keep the world functioning.
Six months ago, Sloan had not even known what the Order of the Mortis was, and he would never have believed in such a thing let alone agreed to work for them if it hadn’t been his last option. After being shot by a suspect a year ago when he went to interview them for a homicide case, his career in policing seemed like it was at an end. That is until Markus showed up and offered him a job for the Order. When Markus started talking about a secret Order dedicated to keeping the dangers of the Underworld at bay he thought he was going crazy. That was until Markus handed him his gauntlet. As soon as he placed it on his arm, the dead all around him were revealed.
It had taken some getting used to as he familiarized himself with the subtle differences between the living and the dead. There were still times when he couldn’t tell the difference and had to check with Markus, but he was getting more and more use to it.
Those who were deemed fit following their death to remain among the living were granted the right to do so, as long as they did not reveal themselves. Each spirit seemed to have their reasons for wanting to remain, although generally it was rooted in an inability to move on out of fear. The Order of the Mortis was in charge of making sure the laws set out for those spirits were adhered to, if they weren’t, then Guardians like Markus and Sloan were sent to deal with them.
“The spirit at that house said something I didn’t quite understand,” Sloan began as Markus grunted acknowledging that he was listening. “He said that we were hypocrites.”
Markus was silent as he gripped the steering wheel tighter.
“Well, we kind of are,” he began. “You would be a lot more like him if you hadn’t agreed to serve the Order.”
Sloan’s heart began to race as he thought back to when Markus had approached him. It had been in the hospital, but he didn’t remember anything between that and getting shot.
“The Order gave you a second chance,” Markus explained. “You are alive, but you shouldn’t have been. So that spirit was half right.”
Sloan touched his chest where the bullet wound scars were. He turned back to look out his window, as a new sense of understanding dawned on him. As he watched the rain through the tinted window he felt his arm begin to tingle. He looked down at his gauntlet as the letters “Pax” began to glow blue. A deep voice began speaking in his head.
“Unauthorized spirits entering the world of the living, Palnor Harbour.”
As the voice trailed off and the light around Sloan’s gauntlet disappeared he looked over at Markus.
“Palnor Harbour?” he knew Markus would have heard the same message from the order.
“Looks like we have a long drive ahead of us,” Markus stated as he turned onto the freeway. “You better get some sleep.”
Sloan leaned back against his seat. His mind was filled with the images of the spirit he had just returned to the Underworld, the woman hanging from the ceiling and the pain in her husband’s eyes.
Sloan opened his eyes, daylight blinding him as he sat up in his seat. He blinked as his eyes adjusted to the light around him. They were driving down a hill side into a small city surrounded in fog. The sun was just breaking through the grey of the fog. The street lights still glowing eerily.
“Welcome to Palnor Harbour.” Markus stated as he took a sip of coffee from a take away cup.
Sloan breathed in the invigorating aroma of the caffeinated drink as Markus swallowed and sighed out in satisfaction.
“Nice of you to wake me up after you stopped for coffee.” Sloan stated as he shot Markus an irritated look.
Markus smirked. “Look down.”
Sloan raised an eyebrow in confusion then looked down to see a second cup of coffee in the cup holder, steam rising from the opening in the plastic lid.
“Right, thanks.” Sloan replied sheepishly as he picked up the cup. “The order gave us a pretty vague description of what was going on here.”
“Yeah, they don’t usually like to go into a lot of detail.” Markus stated as he took another sip from his cup.
Markus continued driving through the fog into the heart of the small city whose streets seemed to be empty. Sloan started to notice a sense of emptiness that could not simply be attributed to the lack of people. Markus slammed on the brakes.
“Haven’t seen this for a while.” Markus stated as he put the vehicle in park.
Sloan stared out at a young boy that was standing in the very center of the road. He didn’t move, his eyes were locked on the vehicle. Sloan squinted as he tried to make out the red glow coming from the child’s eyes. Sloan looked over at Markus, waiting for an explanation. Instead, Markus opened his door and walked out onto the street. Sloan followed him as he walked towards the boy. Sloan started to feel nervous as Markus knelt down in front of the boy who turned his head slowly to look at Markus. Sloan started to raise his right hand to cover Markus, his gauntlet starting to glow. Markus raised his hand towards Sloan and indicated for him to lower his arm. Sloan hesitated until Markus shot him a commanding look.
Markus turned back to look at the boy. “Why are you here?”
The boy blinked and continued to stare at Markus. Sloan strained to hear as the boy spoke in a quiet voice that was almost a whisper.
“It is almost time.”
The boy smiled and turned away as he started walking slowly down the street. Markus watched him for a moment and then stood up. He was staring at the ground as he walked back towards their vehicle. Sloan looked from the boy and then to Markus.
“Shouldn’t we, you know, do something?” Sloan questioned. “Isn’t that what the Order sent us here for?” he continued as he pointed at the boy disappearing into the fog.
“Get in.” Markus replied as he sat in the driver’s seat and closed the door.
Sloan approached the vehicle and sat in the passenger’s seat. Even though he didn’t know Markus that well, he could tell he was not acting like himself.
“What is it?”
Markus narrowed his eyes as he started driving down the street.
“I saw something in that boy’s eyes,” he replied. “There is more to this, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.”
“More to what?” Sloan still didn’t know who or what that boy was. He knew that spirits had a sort of red glow to them but this boy was different. It was only his eyes that had the glow.
“It doesn’t seem like a normal possession.” Markus replied as he continued to stare into the fog.
Sloan peered through the dense grey expecting to see the boy again, although he was gone.
“That is what a possessed kid looks like?” Sloan asked.
“Yes, but I have only ever seen someone be possessed by a spirit that means to do harm.” Markus stated. “I didn’t get that impression from him. Whoever has decided to take over that boy, they don’t seem malicious.”
“Then why has the Order sent us here?”
“Strictly speaking, any possession is prohibited as the spirit consumes the personality of the living person they have entered. Thus, they are exposed.”
“So, shouldn’t we have dealt with that spirit?” Sloan asked, still confused.
“Not yet.” Markus replied. “We need to figure out why this is happening first. We can start there.”
Sloan followed Markus’ gaze as a building began to take shape out of the fog. He read the sign on the front lawn as they pulled into the parking lot.
“City Hall?” Sloan asked.
“That is where the boy was going,” Markus replied as he shut the engine off. “Good enough sign for me.”
The men exited the car as they walked up the front steps of the building into the main lobby. A woman was sitting at the front desk, her hair hung in messy strands across her shoulders and her eyes were surrounded in dark circles. The woman jumped as Sloan and Markus walked through the front door. Sloan looked at her cautiously.
“You startled me!” the woman gasped as she held her hand to her chest.
“Sorry,” Sloan replied. “Is everything alright?”
“Oh yes,” she replied as she straightened her skirt out. “I just haven’t had much sleep.”
“Why is that?” Markus questioned.
The woman narrowed her eyes, becoming suspicious of the strange men in trench coats who stood before her. “My daughter has been having…difficulties, the last few nights.”
Sloan lent over to Markus. “Is every kid in this town possessed?”
Markus ignored Sloan.
“Is the mayor in?” he asked the woman. “We would like to speak to him.”
“And who might you be?” the woman questioned.
“I am detective Stone, and this is detective Bane. We have been sent here to help with the problem your town has been having.” Markus stated.
The woman hesitated as she looked at Markus and then at Sloan. She seemed to be battling with what Markus had said. When it came to the paranormal, people usually didn’t want to accept that something strange was happening around them, but when the issue was brought to the forefront and not tiptoed around, there was no choice. This was especially true when someone offered them a solution to their problem. Markus was well aware of this.
“Follow me.” She replied politely.
Sloan and Markus followed the woman up a flight of stairs to the mayor’s office. She knocked and then opened the door as they walked in behind her. A heavier set balding man sat behind a large oak desk at the back of the office. He had been intently reading through paperwork on his desk before the woman entered. He stopped and looked up with an expression of annoyance on his face.
“Sir, detectives Stone and Bane, here to speak to you about our…problem.” The woman stated with an emphasis on the last word.
The mayor’s face softened slightly as a grin spread across his pudgy cheeks.
“Gentleman, please come in, have a seat.” He stated warmly as he opened his hands to two chairs in front of his desk. “Thank you Mildred.” The mayor continued as he glared at his receptionist.
Mildred dropped her head and left the office, closing the door behind her. Sloan and Markus sat at the chairs in front of the Mayor’s desk.
“So, I am sure that you are aware that the children of our city have been acting very, strange.” The Mayor began. “They are being very peculiar and their behaviour is becoming more and more disturbing.”
“How do you mean?” Markus questioned.
“Well, for example, Mildred’s 4 year old daughter lit her bed on fire the other evening.” The Mayor stated as he stood up from his seat and walked over to a nearby window. “Mildred went to the bedroom after smelling the smoke. Her daughter was just standing in the room, singing to herself. Mildred began screaming and when her daughter noticed her the flames inexplicably extinguished. Her daughter just turned around and smiled at her.”
“That is odd,” Sloan replied as he turned to Markus. “I thought you said they weren’t malicious?”
“Odd?” the Mayor questioned as he turned away from the window to look at Sloan. “That seems a little more than odd to me.”
Markus shot Sloan a look. “What Detective Bane was referring to is that wasn’t quite what we were expecting.”
The Mayor stared at the two men. “What exactly was it you were expecting?”
Markus hesitated. “Can you tell us anything that has happened in the last while that might explain what prompted this change?”
The Mayor paced in front of the window for a few moments then made his way back to his seat. “Nothing that I can think of.” He stated with a look of innocence in his eyes.
Sloan suddenly felt another presence in the room.
“He’s lying” a young boy’s voice whispered in Sloan’s ear. “He let it happen.”
Sloan blinked as he looked around the office. He couldn’t see any spirits although he felt it close, far too close. The spirit was in the room with them, but it was more than that, it was inside of him. He could hear himself talking although he was not controlling what was said. Everything became blurred in a red haze as he lost total control.
“What about Thomas?” Sloan heard himself say.
The Mayors face started to turn pale. He looked from Sloan and then to Markus.
“I don’t know what you mean.” He replied as he licked his lips nervously.
Markus looked at Sloan and saw the red glow around his eyes that the Mayor wouldn’t be able to see. He hesitated, he didn’t sense that his partner was in danger and the question had rattled the Mayor.
“Steven Thomas, he owns half of the town, what about what happened with him?” Sloan continued.
“I, I don’t…” the Mayor stammered.
“Answer me!” Sloan hissed.
The Mayor sat back in his chair panic in his eyes.
“Money is a very powerful motivator, isn’t it Mayor!” Sloan growled.
Sloan listened as the words escaped his lips, he didn’t know where they were coming from. The red haze suddenly erupted in a flash and was replaced by images of a man driving up to a young girl. The man told the girl to come with him although she tried to run. The man grabbed the girl and put her into the vehicle. He drove her into the woods where he raped and killed her. The man took the girl’s body to a house and burned it in a large wood furnace in the basement. The furnace was filled with charred bones and skulls. Sloan saw a flash of red and then the man was outside of a school trying to lead one of the students away. The man was arrested by a police officer for trying to lure the child away. There was a flash of red light and Sloan saw the Mayor in his office with the man. The man handed the Mayor a duffle bag which he opened, greed in his eyes. The bag was filled with stacks of money. The Mayor and the man shook hands. The charges against the man were dropped and he was allowed to go free. The man killed ten more children before he was finally caught. There was a flash and warmth suddenly spread over Sloan as the cold of the spirit disappeared.
“You son of a bitch,” Sloan gasped as he held back tears. “All those children, they died because of you!”
The Mayor looked at Sloan in shock. “How could you have known?”
“Sloan, what is it?” Markus questioned.
“A man named Thomas, he was raping and murdering children and he paid the Mayor off so he could keep doing it.”
“I didn’t know he had ever actually harmed anyone!” The Mayor exclaimed. “I thought he had just made a mistake, how was I to know what he was really doing?”
Markus looked at the Mayor as he stood from his chair. He clenched the hand of his gauntlet arm as it glowed blued. Sloan watched his partner cautiously, it was forbidden for Guardians to attack the living, but Markus’ eyes were filled with rage. Just as Sloan thought Markus was about to strike there was a scream from the lobby. Markus turned to look towards the office door. It suddenly burst into flames. Sloan jumped to his feet as the Mayor leapt from his chair and backed up against the back wall. The door burned at an unnatural rate, within seconds there were only ashes. As the smoke cleared the glowing red eyes of hundreds of children outside of the door appeared.
“My god!” the Mayor cried out. “Do something!”
Markus looked at the children as they stood in the hallway, silent. He turned to look at Sloan. Sloan watched him as he lifted his gauntlet arm. Markus slowly turned his arm so that the “Pax” engraving was facing him. He sighed as he looked at it and then looked at Sloan.
“Latin for peace,” he stated quietly. “We have the duty of maintaining peace.”
“You know this isn’t right!” Sloan pleaded. “They may have broken the law by possessing these children, but they are the victims.”
Markus stared at his gauntlet.
“We must do our duty,” he stated as he clenched his fist.
As Sloan’s heart sank and he heard the Mayor sigh in relief Markus dropped his arm.
“We ensure there can be peace, and these children will not be at peace until there is justice.”
Sloan looked at his partner in surprise.
“What?” the Mayor questioned, panic in is voice.
“Will you leave these children once you have finished what you have come to do?” Markus asked as he looked up at the children.
“He who took our souls has been sent to the flames of the Underworld. He is all that is left,” one of the children stated quietly as they pointed at the Mayor.
Markus dropped the sleeve of his trench coat over his gauntlet as he began walking out of the office through the mass of children that wound their way up the staircase from the lobby. Sloan ran after Markus as the Mayor’s pitiful screams echoed throughout the building. The men walked past the receptionist who was cowering under her desk.
As they drove away from Palnor Harbour, the fog that had surrounded the city slowly lifted.
“How do you think the Order will take that?” Sloan asked as he looked at his partner with a new found respect.
“We shall see,” Markus replied, his gaze fixed on the road.
Sloan suddenly felt his arm tingle as his gauntlet began to glow. The voice of the Order filled his mind.
“You are to return to the City of Helven immediately…”
Sloan and Markus looked at one another.
“A pack of Werewolves has gotten out of hand”
“Looks like they took it alright,” Markus stated with a grin.