Parasite (Shadows of the Past Book II) Chapter 6

Chapter 6

Dressed in blue coveralls with CSU printed in yellow letters on the back, Andrea Mills and James Ball stood in Jenny and Mark’s kitchen. James placed the case he was carrying on the counter and opened it to reveal layers of compartments, each containing vials used for collecting samples. As members of the county’s crime scene unit, they were responsible for collecting the evidence that would eventually be used in court cases, or to determine the cause of a crime.

In the yard an ambulance and several patrol cars sat parked while the occupants of the vehicles gathered in the shade beneath an oak tree. They were waiting for the Crime Scene Unit to finish collecting samples before they could search for clues to what had happened. Originally they had been inside, but James, the senior investigator for the CSU, had ushered them outside so CSU could finish their jobs in a timely fashion.

Andrea was young, mid-twenties, slender in her coveralls, with an open and inquisitive expression. She knelt at the basement door and shined the beam of her flashlight into the darkened basement below.  James, on the other hand, was ten years her senior and had seen more than his share of man’s inhumanity to man. As a former Secret Service agent he understood the darker nature of man and the greed that sometimes pushed him to commit acts he otherwise would not even contemplate.

“Are you ready for this?” James said. This was only her third crime scene so he knew she was still wet behind the ears, so to speak.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Andrea said as she gazed into the dark basement. “Why do they always keep it so dark?”

“Are you afraid of the dark?”

“Of course not, it’s just…”

James smiled at that.

Andrea stood up and motioned for James to lead the way. “Age before beauty,” she said.

“Gee, thanks,” James said as he surveyed the inky well of the basement stairs before him. No sound came from below. He knew from the preliminary report he’d received that there were no living survivors lurking in the basement. But there were two dead bodies and they deserved a modicum of respect as they collected evidence that would be used to determine what had happened to push them over the edge.

“I’ll go down and set up the work lights before you come down,” James said as he picked up one of the rechargeable work lights and stepped onto the landing.

Carefully he worked his way down the steps, taking it slow and easy, checking each step before he placed all of his weight on it. While with the Secret Service, he’d been involved in an investigation of a man suspected of providing funding for terrorist organizations via several websites he owned. While searching his house, they’d learned the hard way that he had bobby trapped his basement stairs by sawing each step nearly in half from the underside. The first agent who went down the steps went right through them onto the concrete below, breaking his leg.

James had no idea what he was going to find in the basement. The last two people down there had been a pair of sheriff’s deputies fighting for their lives. Stopping at the bottom, he shined the beam of his flashlight around his position. Thick strands of what looked like spider webbing hung from the rafters, creating a jungle that filled the empty space. It was as if the basement had not been entered in years, yet the shelf to his right was neat and orderly, full of canned vegetables that were clearly marked and dated. Beyond that lay a workbench; its surface, too, was clear of debris and the hand tools hung from a pegboard attached the wall behind the bench. Neat and orderly with everything in its place, except for the strange threads hanging from the exposed rafters, and the excavation in the center of the basement floor.

The basement could have passed for any one of a million others occupied by a working couple struggling to make ends meet. Beyond the workbench, towards the middle of the room on the floor, lay a pile of dirt with several digging tools scattered about on top of it, next to an excavation in the concrete floor. From the center of the hole a single steel object rose up from the earth, slender, forming a curved line that vanished into the ground. It appeared to be metal yet reflected none of the light given off by the flashlight.

Turning his attention away from the excavation, he shined the light around the floor, noting the presence of a large number of dead insects lying scattered about.

What the hell? James wondered as he knelt down and picked up one of the insects with his gloved hand. It was familiar, yet unlike anything he had ever seen before. Its body was slender like that of a praying mantis, but instead of an upper torso topped by a head, it ended in a stubby appendage that resembled the head of an old-time executioner’s axe lying on its side.

“Is everything all right?” Andrea said from the top of the steps.

“Everything’s fine,” James said as he turned his attention to setting up the floodlight and turned it on. Light flooded the basement, the hanging strands casting long shadows that added to the disturbing nature of the basement.

“What the hell are those things?” Andrea said from the bottom of the stairs.

“No idea,” James said as he gathered one up and slipped it into an evidence bag, cutting it from the rafter with his knife. As soon as the strand was severed it dissolved into a sticky fluid at the bottom of the evidence bag.

“Whatever it is, it’s obviously still alive,” he said as he ran his gloved hand down the back of one of the strands, noting how it changed color when it came into contact with him. “We’ll have to create a path to the bodies for the pathology guys,” James continued as he severed several more, watching them collapse to the floor as a column of liquid.

Their presence made him uncomfortable and he debated stopping the collection at that point so they could don more protective gear. Reaching the first body, he opted to continue as it was. These people had lain down here long enough; they needed to gather up what they came for and let the others do what was needed for the dead.

Jenny was lying on her back staring up at the ceiling above, her short skirt hiked up around her waist, exposing white panties stained by the release of bodily fluids at the moment of her death. James photographed her, the flash of the camera throwing everything into sharp contrast; the entry wound under her chin was black against the dingy whiteness of her flesh.

“I’ve got the female,” James said as he knelt down and searched around her body. Nothing jumped out at him as an object for collection so he moved on. Pathology stood a better chance of determining what had driven them to attack the sheriff’s deputies; their job was to catalogue the crime scene, photograph it, and maintain the integrity of any evidence discovered at the scene.

He found several more of the bugs lying around Jenny.

“What do you make of the insects?” James said.

Andrea knelt down and picked up an insect, looking at it closely under the beam of her flashlight. “It’s like nothing I’m familiar with. I’ll have to check my database when I get back to the office.”

“Could they have come from Central America?”

“Possibly. I won’t know for sure until I get to a computer. What are you thinking?”

“Drug shipment gone bad. Maybe they were sampling the product, who knows.”

James stood up and approached the metal object sticking up from the center of the excavation.

“What’s that?” Andrea said as she joined him.

“Fifty-Five Chevy?” James said.

“I don’t think it’s a car.”

“Then what is it?” James said as he stepped into the excavation and knelt down to get a closer look. He tapped on the metal and it emitted a hollow sound. “It’s hollow.” Shining the beam of his flashlight along the surface, he noted that the metal, though silver in color, did not reflect the light, it absorbed it.

Placing his hand against the silver gray surface, he noted how cold it felt, as cold and lifeless as a grave.

“What do you think it is?” Andrea said, her attention focused on James and the object.

“Don’t know myself, but I know someone who might,” James said as he stepped back and snapped several pictures. Not even the camera flash was reflected from the surface.

After taking a few more shots, he knelt down and looked closely at the point where the metal met the ground. Here it was obvious the object spread out under the concrete floor flaring from the base of the fin. He wasn’t sure when he had recognized the object as a stabilizer fin; it had just come to him as he inspected the object that he was slowly beginning to suspect had otherworldly origins.

He came upon a tube in the slick surface, molded from the same piece of metal, as there were no mating lines. Cleaning out the rest of the dirt that clogged it, he leaned forward and shined his flashlight into the tube. The beam of his flashlight died a few feet into the aperture, the metal seeming to absorb the energy given off by the light. This realization heightened his earlier suspicions that what he was looking at had not come from this planet.

Standing up, he brushed off the knees of his coveralls and climbed out of the excavation.

“So what do you think it is?” Andrea said.

“I don’t want to say, you’ll laugh at me.”

“Me, I wouldn’t laugh at you, you’re my mentor.”

“Very funny. Have you finished with the male?”

“All done, samples taken and photos shot.”

“I guess we’re done, then. We can turn the scene over to the Medical Examiner’s office.”

“That’s good,” Andrea said as she looked around the basement, “this place gives me the creeps.”

“Me too,” James said as he crossed to the stairs with Andrea in tow.

“So what do you think it is?” she said at the bottom of the steps.

James stopped and looked back at the single fin sticking up in the center of the excavation. He imagined that somewhere nearby was the fin’s twin, buried for hundreds of thousands of years beneath the earth. In several places he saw insects lying dead. Could they have come from the craft? If so, how had they survived?

James shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said and turned up the steps. But he knew someone who might and he considered a visit to the University of Washington where one Professor Abramson taught physics. He would know.

Chapter 5                   Chapter 7

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