“…most awful murder I ever did see, Doc.”
I put on my gloves, “I agree sheriff, it’s… not pleasant,” referring to the corpses around the household.
“Yeah, that’s puttin’ it mildly.” The sheriff wandered over to the screen door, and lightly tapped it. There wasn’t a lock on it, and it didn’t close properly, so I wondered, besides large insects, what might the door have stopped from getting inside? Certainly not a killer.
“I need some fresh air, Doc. If you need me, holler.”
I nodded, and began my examination.
When I finished, I strode alongside the sheriff, who was smoking, ‘admiring’ the shitty landscape, and the well at the end of the untended property.
“Well Doc?” asked the sheriff.
“Well,” I replied, “I can tell you they’ve all been dead for over a week. It looks like poisoning.”
“Not all of ‘em,” the sheriff muttered.
“Pardon? You mean there’s more?” I asked, confused.
“Not out there,” he answered, motioning to the horizon. “Nathaniel and his wife had nine kids. Only seven bodies inside.”
This knowledge made my stomach turn, but I wouldn't have considered foul play.
“I don’t think it was murder, Sheriff. It’s likely an accidental poisoning, from contaminated water, possibly from that well,” said I, pointing. “The others are probably sick too, and may be being treated as we speak.”
“Yes. I’d say botulism.”
“Botulism?” the sheriff questioned, doubting the cause of death.
“Yeah.” I confirmed, annoyed the man would ask, having no knowledge in the field of medicine.
“Really? ‘Cause I ain’t ever seen botulism present like that: with their faces peeled off, and their ass holes exploded. You’d say that was botulism?”
I stood corrected. He knew something.
“The worst I’ve ever seen,” I confirmed again, though doubting myself a little, based on the sheriff’s fine words.
“Then let’s check out that well.”
The sheriff pulled his car close to the well, and tied a rope around my waist, while I asked, “Shouldn’t you being going down the well?” He stopped, and thought about his answer, “… No. No, I think it’s best if you go down, you know what you’re doin.’ Besides, I’m… claustrophobic.” The sheriff smiled a little bit, and it was my turn to be doubtful. I didn’t say so, but I actually was claustrophobic.
“I gotta tell you though, Doc,” said the Sheriff as I stood on the edge of the well, “I’m not sure Nathaniel and his boys are in some hospital right now.”
“Yeah. ‘Cause his truck is still out front. Remember?”
“Maybe they took—”
“Nope,” said the sheriff, shooting down the theory before he heard it, “they only had one vehicle.”
“Great,” I said with a false smile.
“Oh and uh,” and the sheriff handed me his matchbook, “You oughta take this.”
“It’s fine, I’ve got the flashlight.”
He gave me a worried, look, and kept his hand stuck out. Finally I obliged, and took the matches, secretly glad to have them.
The rope was tightened around me, and slowly I eased into the pit, less and less pleased to be in the middle of nowhere, into the dark, and an enclosed space. My flashlight was pointing down, and I watched the darkness swallow me. I quickly looked up again, at the shrinking light of day at the top, and the sheriff’s solemn expression as he lowered me in. I took a deep breath, and faced my fears.
Suddenly, something at the bottom came into focus. A few more feet down, and I eventually confirmed, there were body parts, of at least two people, in what appeared to be, a filled-in well. I wagered they were the bodies of Nathaniel, and his eldest sons. Perhaps I was wrong about murder after all. I called up the well, “Hey Sheriff!”
“Yeah?” he called down.
“I think I found Nathaniel and his boys!”
I looked down to guess how far I was from the bottom. As the sheriff continued to lower me, I again called up, “Another ten feet!”
Steadily closer to the bottom, I noticed there was something odd about the body parts. They were—
There was a short grunt from the surface, and without warning, I had all the slack I could ask for, as I fell, hitting the back of my skull, fracturing a few other bones, and breaking the flashlight.
When I came to, there was still daylight up above, but I was alone in the dark, in what I imagined to be a pile of bodies. I winced in pain; my left wrist was fractured, and right arm shattered. Of course my head hurt like a sonofabitch.
I reached into my back pocket awkwardly with my broken wrist, and pulled out the matches the sheriff gave me. What had happened to the sheriff? thought I, Why the hell did he drop me?
“Sheriff!” I screamed, over and over again. There was no reply. I tried not to panic; after a while, someone would come along to make contact with me and the sheriff.
Fighting through the pain, I lit a match, and illuminated the bottom of the well, and the body parts I was lying on. The cold dead arms were sticking out of the sand like they had been buried alive. And maybe they were, because suddenly they grabbed onto me with a vice-like grip and dragged me into the deep. Well, I was right. That screen door wouldn’t have helped at all.