The night took Sunset Valley in it’s embrace, caressing the small town gently, clutching on to even it’s fringes; blanketing it, lulling it, trying to put the disquieted town in a soundless slumber. However, sleep was the one thing that evaded the members of this town; for in light of the recent murder of one of it’s oldest and seemingly innocent members, no one could sleep soundly any longer.
No body could think why a poor, albeit, introverted senior citizen would be murdered, and in such a brutal fashion. Hit multiple times on the head with a flat, blunt object and then shot thrice in the heart was NOT, they said, a good way to go. No one could fathom what brought the evil hand down on a man who had done nothing out of the ordinary in this new town, save keep his distance from the rest of it’s members.
Everyone tossed and turned, and everyone wondered what would happen next; for if there was no apparent rhyme or reason for Sylvester Thompson’s life to be cut short, who or what stopped the person who had done this to target them, their families next?
However, one thing united all our Sunset Valley citizens and that was a burning curiosity. The curiosity to know the facts, the burning desire to find out who had committed this atrocious crime in their quiet, secluded valley, who had disturbed the stillness and tranquility that permeated their town.
But was this the only secret that lay hidden in the murky depths of Sunset’s Pool of Secrets? Everyone hungered to understand more, Everyone was In Search of The Truth. But how many would find it?
IN SEARCH OF THE TRUTH
The morning after the news broke out, City Hall was, to put it lightly, in turmoil. Clerks carrying reports from the coroner, clerks carrying orders from Headquarters, clerks running pell mell, being summoned by panicky voices in narrow, dingy cubicles… Noises, voices, surges of emotion and occasional swearing issued from City Hall that day, and no one, not even the Mayor could set any of the hustle and bustle right.
In another part of town, Earnest Kennedy jogged, panting away at his treadmill. He jogged; imagining himself to be putting distance between himself and all the doubts and pains that plagued him. He jogged harder, trying to run away from all the pressure and frustration that was threatening to crash over him like waves on a sun-kissed, salt smelling beach; the only difference being that waves lap gently, lovingly, passionately against the destination that they travel miles to be destroyed against; but the waves that Ernest experienced were stronger, larger, greater, possessing an all consuming quality; enveloping him in themselves; threatening never to let go.
He hopped off the treadmill lithely; breaking his daily routine in an impassioned fury at his present circumstances. He knew that his bank account would not support another move elsewhere; he had leaned so heavily on his job here and the freedom and rights that he and his wife expected, and now he saw that more stood in the way of their ambitions than anything else ever had before. In addition to all this, with the apparent murder of his neighbour, he lay trembling in bed most nights, unable to sleep; his wife tossing and turning beside him, too, though neither of them broke the spell of silence, simply because there was nothing to say.
Neither could comfort the other, for the fears they faced were one and the same. Who next? Was it them? They twitched and flinched every time there was even the slightest of noises in and around the house; the wood beams cooling, the fridge in it’s cycle, the washing machine… Everything made their hairs stand on end.
They were trapped in this tiny little town; their dreams of ambition and power had become their own personal nightmare, and now, they could not even run away from the shadows gathering at the corners of their lives. They feared for Erin, their baby, who lay sleeping soundlessly in the room next to theirs. Who could veil the truth under the false curtain of idiocy, so as to suggest that a murderer would not touch an innocent babe in her cradle?
He shook his head; dispelling the now familiar thoughts that plagued him on a daily basis away; as if dismissing a pack of intent flies around him. He couldn’t let himself think that way; he couldn’t amble down that path again, for the questions were recurring, never ending, and the more the circle of thoughts flooded his mind, the more insane he felt every passing day.
He looked at his wrist-watch. It was only 07:00 A.M; they had a few more hours left before they were expected at the base. He walked towards the kitchen, wanting to prepare a light post- exercise snack, when he was startled by the door bell ringing. He looked at his watch again incredulously; the time had remained unchanged, not that he had expected it to, but nonetheless, a visitor at this hour was shocking, if not inappropriate altogether.
He rushed to the door and yanked it open before whoever it was rang again; not wanting his sleeping child to be woken up. He was astounded when he came face to face with the person standing there, before his eyes.
‘Good morning, Mr. Kennedy,’ said Inspector Buster Clavell gravely as he took in the whole of Earnest Kennedy in a glance. Earnest stood gaping, in response, thinking of something to say, but his mouth did not form any words. His pulse quickened with the natural fear that any and all of us experience when a police inspector is at close-range; the fear of authority, and, worse, the fear of misguided, corruption that can break families and ruin lives. Not that Inspector Clavell’s record was anything but perfect, but we have all heard our share of stories, and this is what made Mr. Kennedy check before his own doorstep.
Finally, painfully, after choking back the fear that had arisen within him like vomit and after several coughs to clear his throat, he said in a voice that didn’t sound much like his own, ‘Hello Inspector, how may I help you this morning?’ He shifted in his shoes, tensed, wondering what Clavell was doing here again...
‘I think it’s best that we discuss these matters indoors, Mr. Kennedy; may I come in?’ He strode into the house without waiting for a reply, and the fear rose in Earnest’s body; from somewhere near his stomach; and it coiled and touched his heart, making it race, striking like a serpent. When he looked down at his hands, he saw them trembling. He tucked them away behind his back and checked at the irrationality of his fear.
As they stepped across the threshold, Eithelia walked into their foyer and she froze in her tracks, staring at Buster Clavell with a bemused expression. Then, slowly, her lips twisted in a grimace of contempt. ‘Officer,’ she nodded, forced to acknowledge the figure of authority that stood before her. She was irritated that he would come to visit them in the first place, even after the round of rigorous questioning that the couple had undergone the previous day.
They had quizzed, counter questioned, cross referenced, compared and analyzed notes as well as the statement that she had provided them with, and finally, when they could squeeze no more information out of them, and they had convinced themselves that the couple could not have had any involvement in the murder, they had walked out of the house, leaving the two behind, frustrated and mentally exhausted.
Thus, his presence could not easily be absorbed once again. In fact, he was as unwanted here as a family of rats in a pantry, though that did not deter him in the slightest from advancing on the family. Since neither of the Kennedies appeared to want to invite him further into their abode, he sighed and walked towards the living room, with the couple padding quietly behind him.
No one bothered sitting; it was obvious to everyone present that this was far from a social visit. Buster shifted his grey-blue gaze from husband to wife and then back again. The silence in the room was loud and intrusive; and Earnest shivered slightly as a drop of sweat, now turned ice-cold in fear, broke from the top of his neck and slipped down his spine; like a bad dream breaking into the peaceful slumber of his subconscious.
‘Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy, let’s not waste any time on formalities,’ he said rapidly. ‘I must make it clear to you that in light of the fact that you both were the closest possible neighbours to Mr. Thompson, I have obtained a search warrant for your house, which, as I’m sure you good people know, allows me to look more closely into each and every room of your house…’
Earnest’s breathing became more ragged and Eithelia’s eyes narrowed into small, cat-like slits as she glared at the man before her. ‘So, we’re criminals now, are we, Inspector? Is that what you’re implying? What gives you the right to invade our homes and privacy this way?’ ‘I’m sorry, Mrs. Kennedy,’ he replied, ‘But in a case such as this where nothing is adding up, we want to close all loose ends possible, and sadly, your family remains one of them. We have no other leads. Please cooperate with us.’
Eithelia said nothing, for what could she do against the power of the law? She stalked away, silently contemplating the various ways and household appliances she could use to murder the Inspector in the kitchen when his back was turned. Buster, on the other hand, wasted no time whatsoever and began searching the house with a dithering Earnest in his wake.
He passed through room after room mercilessly, opening and feeling his way through drawers, cupboards, shelves and cabinets with professional ease. He thoroughly analyzed every nook and corner of the house, but somehow, he managed to disturb nothing. His pace never slowed nor quickened, his grasp never slackened nor tightened; this was a man who knew what he wanted and what he was looking for and would cease at nothing to find it.
Earnest’s pulse throbbed. He knew that they had nothing to hide, and there was no incriminating evidence, (apart from, perhaps, his wife’s laundry mixed with his,) that could suggest anything out of the ordinary taking place in their house-hold. But irrational fear had latched itself firmly in his belly and refused to budge, no matter how much reasoning he used against it.
Meanwhile, Buster grew more and more dissatisfied as he passed from room to room. Most serial killers always had some keep sake or memory of their murders; like some gruesome hunting trophy displayed proudly in a living room. It would generally lie in a place that was easily accessible in their homes. Murderers just couldn’t help such things, such tiny, minute details and tid-bits here and there. However, when no such items or hints lay in the obvious hiding spots at the Kennedy Household, he grew frustrated. He had gone through a lot of trouble to get this warrant and this was the last loop hole left; everyone else had their water tight alibis ready and well prepared.
Finally, after looking and assessing every room twice over, with a nervous Earnest breathing down his neck, Buster was forced to concede defeat. He turned to him and said, ‘Thank you for your cooperation, Mr. Kennedy. I’m sorry if we’ve inconvenienced you in any way.’ Earnest nodded tersely, not trusting himself to speak.
As he walked the Inspector out the door, however, he paused and looked across the yard at the old shed which the Kennedies used to store old, unwanted junk that would most probably remain untouched forever, though it was oft pretended that some of it could someday be of some use. He had half a mind to forget about it and leave, but then he wanted no stones left unturned in his search. ‘Is that your shed?,’ he asked Earnest.
Earnest, who had looked relieved at the apparent departure of this severe looking Inspector, grimaced at the realization that he was not quite rid of him as yet and replied bitingly, ‘Why, yes. Yes, it is. Would you like to see if there are any bodies hidden in there, too? Or perhaps some guns or other such arms and ammunition?’ Apart from the slight pulsing of a vein in his temple, Buster ignored the sarcasm and walked towards the tiny shed.
The moment the shed door creaked open, he knew he had struck gold. Both men froze, one in thrilled anticipation and one in disbelieving shock as the sick scent of blood struck their nostrils. Slowly, cautiously, the inspector flipped the light switch on.
Lying directly against the wall opposite them lay a spade, with some other common gardening implements scattered around it. Blood smattered the walls and the spade and metallic head looked grievously battered. Sylvester Thompson was mauled at the head by a flat, unpolished object. The spade definitely counted as a flat, unpolished object.
The Inspector turned to Earnest. Shock animated every single line of his face, and he had aged ten years in the past 10 seconds. ‘Earnest Kennedy, you are under arrest,’ said Buster with a triumphant grin as he brought out the handcuffs.
Boyd and Susan Wainwright stood whispering quietly in their house, both forgetting that there was no one around who could hear them. ‘Susie, we’ve just moved here. We can’t leave now, look at this place, it’s bigger than anything we could ever have expected! Look at our salaries! They NEED us here, they’re paying us by the bucket. We have everything we want...One little incident..’ ‘It isn’t ONE little incident, Boyd,’ she replied back fiercely, a delicate frown marring her features, ‘It’s murder in cold blood, plain and simple. We can’t stick around a town like this, what are you thinking, we aren’t safe. We should leave…’
‘What’ll worry you next? A dead crow on the streets? Listen to yourself, love; you aren’t even half-convinced. Look, it’s a beautiful, peaceful valley. Nothing like this has ever occurred in it’s history before. We’ve been directly hired by Queenie Landgraab herself, we’re fresher scientists in a vast and dominated field and this is probably a chance that most people in our places would kill for!
We’re heading the entire research centre, and the government here has to either be very stupid or extremely trusting to allow people like us with NO experience, with fresh new degrees to hold positions of such importance! Leaving now would be worse than folly, Susie, it’s the best break we could ever get. Let’s stay, just for some more time. Nothing in life comes without a fair share of risk involved. Let’s wait it out. Please?’
She sighed, but Boyd knew when he had won. He hugged her hard, and with a pang of guilt, he knew that the decision they had taken was not something that she wanted; it was, in fact, it was something that terrified her. But he had no choice. This was their chance of a lifetime, and he was not about to waste it because of his wife’s timid heart.
The bell rang, making both of them jump. The sun was just setting; the weak pinkish yellow rays lent it’s natural, unselfish beauty to their expensive teak-wood furniture through the windows. ‘I’ll get it,’ he said to Susan. She nodded, staying behind a minute to regain her composure.
Boyd opened the door and there, before him stood a young couple, probably in their 20s. Upon seeing him, they smiled. ‘Yes?,’ he asked them, perplexed. He had seen either one or both of them almost every weekend, grocery shopping, but they had never actually come up to him and introduced themselves. ‘Mr. Boyd Wainwright?,’ asked the man in a deep, gravelly voice. ‘That’s me,’ he replied carefully. How may I help you two?’
‘Mr. Boyd, we’ve come here in need of your professional assistance,’ said the woman in an almost equally rough, masculine voice. May we talk to you about this inside?’ ‘Yes, do come in, erm, your names?’ ‘I’m Milton and this is my partner, Enriqueta,’ he said. ‘Alright then, Milton and Enriqueta, please come in.’
After they had seated themselves in the living room and the appropriate introductions with Susan had been made, Susan asked them, ‘What is it that you needed our help with, Milton and Enriqueta?’ ‘It’s difficult for us to explain this to you, Susan,’ Milton began quietly, ‘Especially since you are, after all, a woman of science. But we’ve realized that we need professional help and right now, you both are the only ones we can talk to about this…’
‘Tell us then, Milton,’ said Boyd gently. ‘We’ll try our best to help you out with whatever it is you both are going through.’ He sighed. ‘I don’t expect you to believe us, Mr. and Mrs. Wainwright,’ he said softly, ‘But the story goes like this. We’re relatively new to this town. Both of us are writers. Money had been running scare where we came from and, so we decided to move here as we heard that Sunset needed columnists for The Sunset Times, so we’ve applied for it. We’ve bought a small home for ourselves with whatever little we could pool together. However, things aren’t…. normal within….’
He looked at Enriqueta helplessly, who held his hand as she continued their story. ‘When we first got there, things were fine. The house was just what we needed, quiet, safe, secluded and peaceful. However, after a week, THINGS seemed to happen in and around it… Like it had a life of it’s own…..’ ‘What do you mean?,’ asked Susan sharply. ‘I can’t follow what you’re trying to say here…’ ‘Things move around, Mrs. Wainwright,’ said Milton frantically. ‘Furniture sometimes turns up in completely different rooms overnight, sounds, creaks, groans and moans resound through the house later in the evening, and sometimes… Sometimes, we feel like we’re being watched.’
‘Stuff and nonsense, my dear,’ said Susan exasperatedly. ‘I am sure you both are imagining such things. Science does not support supernatural phenomenon. It might be a robber or some practical joker; I suggest you have your locks changed and your windows bolted shut before you sleep. ‘We’ve tried all of that, ma’am,’ Milton replied. ‘We’ve tried everything possible. And if it was a robber, why has nothing been taken away?’
‘Well, how else can one explain something like this?,’ asked Boyd rationally. ‘It’s the stuff of legends and stories, my friends.’ ‘Well, that’s why we’ve come to you both, haven’t we?,’ said the young woman soothingly. ‘We can’t begin to understand these things. Nothing has harmed us as such yet, but living like this is, honestly, driving us both quite mad. We want a solutio, and we thought you scientists could help us find out what’s going on here… We don’t expect you to take us on our word,’ she said hastily as Susan’s eyes sharpened and her mouth opened to reply, ‘All we ask is that you both come stay with us, for just a couple of days and see what we’re talking about.’
Boyd replied before his wife could begin; ‘Thank you for bringing this to our notice, Milton, Enriqueta. We’ll have to talk about this together before we decide what we want to do. Can you both come here, at the same time tomorrow?’ ‘That’s alright with us,’ said Milton, relieved. ‘Thank you for considering this. I know it must be hard for you scienctists to delve into something so unknown and irregular to you… We’ll see ourselves out and will be back tomorrow for your answer. Goodbye.’
After the door closed behind them, Boyd turned to his wife. ‘No, Boyd,’ she said firmly, when she saw that familiar hopeful spark in his eyes. His expression did not alter before he continued, ‘Sue, you and I both know that we’re going to do this. It’s another experience altogether. I don’t believe in one word of this, either, I think they’re probably just easily spooked by normal, everyday stuff, or they just want media attention. Whatever it may be, it’s something we should do!’
‘Boyd, this is ridiculous! What are you even implying? That we actually go stay with a couple we’ve met just ONCE and about whom we know nothing of to hunt for ghosts?! What’s gotten into you?!’ ‘It’s a small town, love, everyone knows everyone else. I’m sure someone knows them and I’m sure they’re fine .They’re young and simple. What’s the worst that could happen?’ She sighed. ‘Fine, then,’ she replied grumpily. ‘But know that I’m doing this just for you.’
Boyd smiled; his quiet, winning smile, and her heart melted as it always had done for him. He leaned forward and kissed her and he felt her lips turn upwards underneath his as he held her hand and led her towards their bedroom.
Catharsis108 and Janelle 43: Thank you SO, SO much for your positive feedback! I was quite losing hope, wondering if no one was even reading. But thank you so much for responding I hope you like this chapter and the ones that come after it! :D
The Observant Lefty.