My mother had begun to shake, a hand resting upon the dirt wall of the crypt. I had not seen her return to me after making her call, but now she seemed unable to focus on my person at all. Her mouth moved wordlessly, fish-like.
“Look, mum, why don’t you go into the fresh air outside and wait for the police?” Already, the sirens were beginning to bleed through the tense air.
She nodded, tottering out and stumbling her way up the stairs to where the light sky welcomed her. Wishing I had more light to my subject than that little which filtered down, I watched her go, strange worry in my eyes betraying the care. When my sight returned to the ominous gloom-shape, I identified another foot, this one missing two of the middle toes, again at the base of the hideous statue, as if the victim was merely sitting in the solid mortar.
After a minute, I became aware of a multitude of footsteps pressing on the slate-floor above me; I myself held my ground, simply lifting my mother’s torch higher onto the xenolith. Expecting my mother to come screaming down, I kept my back to the door, still searching the faux-stone for any more horrific signs of body-parts. I trembled, cold spreading inside me again, and I tossed my hair, as if its defiance would protect me from more lurking evils.
Was it getting darker, chillier in here? The shadow in the entrance did little to bother me, except block out my last remaining light-source. And there, I prayed not, suddenly filled with the extent of my youth and my naivety, suddenly…more afraid. I was no longer fourteen and a scraggly amateur, ‘cosy’ sleuth, but my post as a detective had not made fear any easier to handle.
A beam of light trickled down from the stone roof above, and, as the only warmth I had, I side-stepped into it.
Torchlight, strong-beamed, unlike mine, reflected off the sparkles that adorned my converses, and it reflected through to the block. Company’s voice roused my spirits again.
“Ha. They never learn,” said he in his thick Russian accent.
“Inspector Simnova…” I replied, slowly stepping forward to let the light filter onto my pale skin.
“Well, Miss King, what have we got?”
“Have you ever seen anything like this?” I turned to him, hoping he couldn’t see how grateful I was for his presence.
Before he could properly reply, a column of uniformed police shuffled in efficiently, armed with chisel, unsealed body-bags, plastic, and more of those bright torches. As if they were about to cut into my heart, I felt as if they had invaded this private space.
“Come on, force, let’s see who this poor soul is,” he boomed over the entire cavern.
So the chiselling began. With it, a haunting rhythm that was hammered right into my skull.