“I’m not mad.” Michelle Duncan’s hands shook as she reached towards the plastic cup of water the detective had provided.
The blond man sitting opposite her gave no reply.
“And I’m not drunk or on drugs, either!”
That had been what they first suspected, when she had flung herself across the bonnet of the police car, babbling hysterically about graveyards and murder.
“And I’m not lying either!” She heard the hysterical note rise again in her voice and forced herself to look up to meet the blond man’s eyes. They were an icy blue that made her think of her Swedish grandmother and they had the same hard look that her grandmother’s eyes took on when she knew Michelle was lying.
Only this time Michelle wasn’t lying.
“I don’t understand what happened, I just know it did.”
“Why don’t you tell us again what you remember?” Detective Dan Taylor suggested gently, from his seat beside the blond man.
Michelle had known Dan Taylor most of her life, but she’d never until now realised how reassuring his presence could be. In the midst of the angry cops, the dead-eyed police doctor and now the hard eyed blond man, Dan’s familiar, slightly podgy face was a reminder of the normal world. The world where on Sunday, he would be singing out of tune in the church service and his mother would cluck her tongue with Michelle’s mother and complain about his girlfriend.
She nodded like a little bird. “OK,” she said, sounding and feeling like a small kid. She risked a glance again at the blond man, wondering who he was, how he fitted into all this. At first she had thought he was another cop, maybe someone higher up the chain by the way the others almost bowed and scraped to him. Then she’d thought, with his black clothes and hard eyes, that he was a shrink. Neither seemed to fit him, and it scared her a little.
She swallowed, took a deep breath and began again. “Every Halloween, a bunch of us, the kids who are too old for trick or treating, but too young for the Halloween parties, go to the cemetery as soon as it gets dark. We usually just hang out, tell ghost stories, maybe jump out from behind a couple of tombstones to scare each other, but it’s all just kid’s stuff, you know?”
She glanced at the blond man, who didn’t say anything. The thought of that evening's planned innocent fun made her eyes sting and she rubbed at them. God only knew what she looked like. She'd caught a brief glimpse of her face in a mirror in the Police Doctor's room. With the white powder standing out against her pale skin and her smudged mascara turning her eye sockets black, she looked like a monotone clown. The thought almost made her laugh and gave her some form of strength.
"This year, Charlie Bates managed somehow to get hold of an Ouija board. He thought, we all thought, it would be fun to try it out in the cemetery." She looked from one to the other. "None of us, I think, really thought anything was going to happen. It was just supposed to be fun, you know?"
Dan smiled encouragingly. The blond man didn't respond.
"We decided, all of us really, to try it out on the tombstone of Clara Mont, also known as Rosa Brae."
The blond man's face creased in confusion. Michelle's surprise at his reaction overcame her fear.
"Rosa Brae? The Rose of the World? She was notorious in the twenties, had thousands of lovers, supposed to have killed a couple of them?"
As the blond man’s face still showed a lack of comprehension, she continued: "She's buried in the cemetery under a huge black marble tombstone. It’s the only one; the only marble one in the cemetery.”
She swallowed suddenly. "We thought it would be fun to try and get to the truth about her. Only..." She paused. "It seemed a lot less fun in the dark. And the rain."
Dan smiled, like he understood. Like he could understand how that place looked in the dark, with the rain splashing down like a something out of a horror movie. Strange, that had made it less scary somehow; she hadn't been keen to go, but more because she didn't want to get wet and cold than because she was frightened. She’d tried to talk Charlie out of it, but he'd called her a coward and Tom, Harry and Scott backed him up. So she'd gone along.
"All we had were the torches, so we got lost.”
She remembered stumbling around, bashing her leg against a monument to Annie Chapel ("After Life's heavy burden do I sleep.") when Harry, Harriet Food, though she couldn’t remember anyone other than adults ever calling her that, had called out, waving her torch around, so proud at finding a black tombstone. They’d all been cold, wet, and eager to start this so it would soon be over, that they hadn't bothered to check the name. They just gathered in a circle around the stone with the board in the centre, all their fingers resting on it.
"It was about five minutes before we realised our mistake. We didn't do anything, at least I don't think we did, only we must have, mustn't we?" She looked from one to the other, seeking reassurance.
Dan looked uncomfortable. "What happened next?"
This was the bit she was certain they didn't believe. She wouldn't have believed it herself.
"There was a flash of light and a horrible loud cracking noise. I saw Harry grab at Scott, but I thought she was using it as an excuse because she fancies him. Charlie was cross, said it was just lightning hitting a tree and Tom said we should think about leaving as the storm was getting worse. I wish we had."
She muttered softly. Gathering her courage in both hands, she continued, "There was this dreadful cracking noise, like... I don't know what it was like, but Tom, who lived in America for a bit, said he thought it was like an earthquake. And then there was this terrible booming voice." She shook her head. "I've heard people talk about voices coming from the depths of hell, but until tonight I didn't really know what it sounded like."
"Did you hear what the voice said?" The blond man spoke for the first time. She was surprised to hear an American accent in his voice. She shook her head.
"Just odd words. Scarlet failed... Instrument of Destruction. I couldn't properly tell, because I wanted to get away from it. We all did."
She could see them all as though their faces were caught in a camera flash in her mind; Harry clinging to Scott who was pulling her back, Tom's hands formed in fists and Charlie... poor Charlie, frozen in place, staring.
"He just appeared in the middle of the graveyard. He could only have come from the grave. There was a weird green light, which seemed to come from him. He stared around like... he didn't know where he was or what had happened. But his eyes... they were glowing green."
She shivered, her whole body moving in fear.
"I just started to run. Didn’t know where I was going. I tripped over a tree root just in time to see Charlie... oh God, Charlie."
She could see him now. It felt like she would always see him. Held high between those awful white hands. And the light... Strange how the priest had always spoken of hellfire as being red, not green. He got one thing right, though; it could consume a person and leave no mark. Charlie's body had just... disintegrated. One moment he was there and the next he wasn't, his mouth open in a silent scream as his soul was sucked up by the other man. That’s all she could be certain of.
“I just ran," she admitted softly. "Just ran and didn't stop until I ran into the car." She sat staring at her hands. "I'm telling the truth. But I can't explain it."
Dan smiled sadly. "Your mum's waiting outside. I'm going to get one of the officers to drive you home. Okay?" he said gently.
I’m sorry if it's nothing," Dan said, closing the door on the teenager. "But you said if there was anything odd involving the cemetery, you wanted to know about it."
Captain Blue nodded coldly, pulling on his Blue body armour. It wouldn’t have done for Spectrum to be taking an interest in an English Halloween prank investigation, even if it was the grave of one of their agents which was violated.
"An officer has been round to Charlie Bates’ home, his parents haven't seen him since this evening, thought he was still out with his friends."
Blue simply nodded once more.
Frustrated, Dan grabbed a chair, suddenly throwing it across the room. "What the fuck is going on?" he demanded. "I got a robbed grave, a missing kid and three others scared half to death. So what the fuck is going on?"
He had the momentary satisfaction of seeing the Spectrum captain look uncomfortable.
"We’ll need another couple of days in the cemetery," Blue said quietly.
This story was inspired by the image of Scarlet pulling himself out of the grave on this great website. I started thinking about the stories of Ouija boards summoning up things and what would happen if you were just an ordinary group of friends mucking around on Halloween and that happened (Think about what those guys in Shapeshifter, they thought Scarlet was a zombie). Then I thought what about that night when Black came back...
Thanks to Chris and the Beta panel. As ever, you guys rule.