A Welcome Sound
by D. S. Ullery
“I think this is the same guy. The eyes are burned out of the sockets, just like the ones we found at the last couple of places.”
Officer Douglas agreed, though the wave of nausea currently washing over him prevented him from replying to the man in the room above. He clapped one palm over his mouth, a desperate attempt to keep the taste of rot poisoning the air in the basement at bay.
It was dank and dark here, the sort of subterranean space people usually only entered if they wanted to store worthless belongings somewhere out of the way. Only it wasn’t old board games or outdated furniture this particular homeowner had kept below.
Douglas was standing on the bottom step of a narrow flight of stairs, leading to a trap door above. A warm rectangle of light spilled into this horrible chamber through the opening, which they’d uncovered when his partner had accidentally knocked the corner of a throw rug upstairs aside with the tip of his shoe.
To his right, a solidly packed dirt floor occupied most of the basement space. It was populated with three evenly spaced holes, each bearing an unsettling resemblance to a freshly dug grave. On his left, three concrete cubicles of equal width and height lined the opposite wall. All three spaces were open, lacking doors.
Stepping off the stairs , he withdrew the magnesium flashlight dangling from a metal loop in his belt, bringing it blazing to life with quick punch of his thumb. Douglas aimed the powerful beam at the first and closest cubicle, moving slowly in that direction.
He reached the space and peered inside cautiously, scanning the interior with the light. His gag reflex was tested as the decomposed remains of a badly mutilated woman flashed briefly in the bright circle of light. He flinched,taking a reflexive step back
Taking a deep breath, Douglas composed himself. It wasn’t easy – the stench was much worse this close (the body was clearly the source of the terrible odor) and the environment as a whole gave him the creeps. When he felt he had steadied himself, he entered the cubicle.
Keeping the light centered, he examined the corpse. She was upright, back against the wall, her arms raised, held in place at the wrists by thick, iron manacles. Duct taped had been wrapped around her head, over her mouth, several times over. From the state of the body, he guessed she’d been dead for weeks . Despite the deterioration of the poor woman’s flesh, it was apparent she’d suffered deep lacerations all over her body. Someone had cut her limbs, stomach and face with a knife , then left her here to bleed out.
Her eyes were ruined, having been reduced to scorched blobs.
A deep anger surged within Douglas as he mentally cataloged this last detail. That was the clincher. The whole ballgame, as his father used to say. His partner had been correct: This was the work of the same. The same man who had left similar death depositories beneath several homes across the city, as well as the corpse they’d discovered upon entering this place.
Law enforcement believed it to be a local land owner who had purchased this property as well as some of the others where victims had been found. Douglas and his partner had responded to a complaint called in by a neighbor, who reported screams issuing from underneath this house. Upon realizing the address was on the list of properties owned by their prime suspect, the officers had entered prepared to make an arrest.
But the man was nowhere to be found. Only more victims. Douglas found himself hoping the bastard was crouched down here, quaking in his shoes. He prayed the man would try to attack him if that were the case. Shooting the miserable prick would be one of the most rewarding moments of his entire life.
He moved to the next cubicle. Here he saw a similarly grim scene. Another body, manacled as well, also bearing deep cuts and with the eyes burned out. The only noticeable difference was the degree of decomposition. From the look of it, Douglas estimated she’d been dead maybe a week.
So he’d killed the first girl, then kept this one captive down in this hellhole while her unfortunate neighbor had rotted away. The rush of hate powering through Douglas was so strong, he felt his cheeks grow hot.
They were dealing with a real life monster. It was that simple. That horrifying.
He decided to head back upstairs and collect his partner before checking the final cubicle. It was likely to contain another body and he didn’t want to face that alone. This was too much, even after a decade on the force.
A sound caught his attention. It originated from the other side of the wall separating him from last cubicle. It was the noise of someone moving. It was a welcome noise, indicating to him one of two possibilities: There was a survivor, or he was about to have his desire satisfied and capture the lunatic responsible for this atrocity.
Douglas slid his hand toward the holster holding his service revolver, popping the strap. He held the flashlight up, level with his shoulder, keeping the beam trained directly in front of him as he walked.
He turned the corner quickly, facing down whoever might be on the other side
A lithe figure was crouched against the wall, naked flesh glistening beneath the light, a wrist suspended from a single shackle above its head. The iron clasps empty twin hung open next to it.
Dark lines wove along the limbs of the creature, culminating in a row of spiny protrusions which cascaded along its spine. These tapered to a black spike of a tail, like some impossible lizard. Whatever it was, it exuded a distinctly feminine quality.
She initially took no notice of the policeman gaping at her. Her focus was on the fresh meat she was shoving into her gullet. Douglas followed her movements, swerving the beam down and exposing the tattered remnants of a human body at her feet.
He stepped closer , staring at the body. It had been throughly savaged, arms torn from their sockets, the stomach rent asunder and emptied of the vital organs. Aghast, Douglas began to draw his pistol, when he noticed something odd about the remains.
There, dangling from what was left of a belt strap circling the mid-section. It was a large key ring, hooked to a belt loop, just far enough from the captive to be out of her reach. The keys themselves were large and made of metal.
Keys one might use to open shackles.
This was their man.
A surprised grunt floated to him from the darkness above the grisly scene and he shifted the light back up. He was startled to discover a young girl (no more than eighteen, he suspected) staring back at him. She hopped back, gripping the chain connecting the manacle to the concrete..
Gone were the bizarre markings. The protrusions he had seen emerging from her back had also disappeared. The only remaining indications what he had witnessed had been real were her nakedness – her clothes were torn to pieces , scattered across the floor of the cubicle- and the blood staining her mouth.
The reptilian quality she’d possessed had been replaced by a terrified innocence, silently conveyed by emerald green eyes that pleaded for help.
Douglas slowly moved his hand away from his gun. He drew closer, signaling for her to stay still. He unzipped a small satchel connected to his belt and withdrew a pair of latex gloves stored inside. Quickly donning these, he reached out and unhooked the keys from the belt.
It took several tries, but he finally found the correct one, managing to undo the shackle with a satisfying click. As he released the girl, Douglas could only imagine what had happened. In his mind’s eye, the recently deceased maniac had captured the wrong victim, unaware of what she really was. He must have unlocked one of the manacles in an attempt to harm her , only to have her true nature unleashed in all its fury. He’d gone from tormentor to food in the blink of a eye.
At least, that’s what Douglas hoped. He rather enjoyed the thought of this man being something she’d shit out later.
The sound of his partner calling to him broke him out of his reverie. Alarmed, he began to scan the area for any possible hiding places. He had no desire to take her into custody, nor did he particularly believe he’d be able to if he tried.
The girl tapped his shoulder, frantically pointing across the basement, beyond the three graves. She waved for Douglas to follow her, leading him out of the cubicle. They crossed the dirt floor, arriving at a small, square door located at the base of the opposite wall. The passage was cloaked in shadow and he had missed it upon entering earlier.
The girl pushed at the door, causing it to swing inward. She scurried through, beckoning for him to have a look. He did, shining the light inside. He was greeted by the sight of a narrow, vertical tunnel, equipped with a small ladder. The ladder ascended to an opening through which dim afternoon light now shone. An escape route, likely put in place by the deceased murderer in case he faced a day just like this one.
She moved to the ladder, then paused, turning back to Douglas. The fear in her eyes was gone. What shone back was gratitude- and a question, one he understood without effort.
“I have a daughter, about your age,” he answered softly, smiling at her. He nodded toward the ladder. “Go. My partner will be down here shortly. You’d better be gone.”
She returned his smile, then disappeared up the ladder, a wraith vanishing as if she’d never been. Douglas stared after her for a moment, the sound of the other officer’s footsteps growing louder as they thudded down the steps.
Turning from the passage, he began to think up a cover story.
Author link: www.amazon.com/author/dsullery