David rushed to the other car, leaving Daniel, and peered inside. “Where did they go?” He asked. Daniel shrugged his shoulders then added, “No idea, I came straight to your car”. It was the truth. Why mention that he had felt the car was empty and had just glanced at it? “Copper or criminal I thought. Figured it was best to go to the copper first”, Daniel said. The others had left the Escort and were gathering near it. Lisa wandered, examining the engine compartment on the destroyed car. “Aye, that makes sense I suppose. So do any of you want to tell me what happened?” David asked. He looked at each of them as he did so.
Saved by the bell, well, the siren and Lisa. The sirens indicated that backup had finally arrived, and Lisa was swearing from behind. Swearing like a drunken sailor on a night off. “Bastards, utter basterds”, she said, ending. She walked back to the others. She held the broken wing mirror in her hands. “Do you have any idea how much this will cost to replace!” She ranted as she waved the wing mirror in their faces. “next time we’re taking your car Martin”. Martin looked at her, still wary from the earlier encounter in the car. “Had we taken mine then it would have caught us”, he said. Crystal was the first one who said something that caught Davids attention. “It is gone from here isn’t it”, she had said. David did not give anyone a chance to reply, and he moved in quickly with his question. “What do you mean it’s gone”, he asked.
“That”, Martin said, “is quite a long story”.
“Oh, I have time”, David said, smiling, “I have the time”.
The four of them returned to the Escort and waited for David. David had headed to the Police officers that had arrived to brief them. “What do we tell him?” Daniel asked. Crystal looked up. She had been deep in thought, “the truth?” She suggested.
“Jesus, he’ll have us dragged to the looney bin the second we finish”, Martin said unhelpfully. “I don’t think we’ll have much choice in the matter”, Danial said. “The second he looks any of us up, and he will, he will see what we do. The guy isn’t thick”.
“And”, Lisa added. “We are going back to the Institute, so that is a bit of a giveaway”. Daniel shook his head, trying to think of a way out from this. “How’d you know him anyway?” Martin asked.
“Well, I…” Daniel started before David cut him off. None of them had heard David approaching. All four had been so concerned with what they would tell him that their attention was elsewhere. “He”, David said as he pointed at Daniel, “was going to piss in my car”. David left it dangling for a moment; he watched to see what the reaction would be. “Anyway, budge over”, David said to Crystal and Daniel in the back seat. “I suppose we are going to your Institute”, he finished. He has looked us up already, Martin thought. Lisa thought about her car, Crystal about if going to them was a good idea. Daniel thought about what a tight squeeze it was, and when David started to tell the story of how they met, it seemed to get tighter still.
Back at the Institute, they sat down to talk. Daniel thought he would be doing most of the talking, but Crystal was the one with something to say, as it turned out.
“I want you to think of the balls on a snooker table”, Crystal said. “Imagine they are all the same colour, and you can’t tell the difference between them”. She looked the others over before continuing, “each ball is a different universe”.
“A different universe?” Daniel asked.
“Yes”, Crystal replied abruptly, “Do you know the Legend of Lilith?” David just sat and listened. In his years as a Policeman, he had learnt to let people talk when they wanted to. “Bits and bobs”, Martin said. “It is nonsense”, Lisa commented. Daniel had expected Crystal to argue this point, but she just seemed to accept it. Maybe she had become used to people dismissing her, he thought. “Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, Crystal said with a sigh. “Things get warped in time. Stories become a legend, and a legend becomes a fairy tale. Who can know for sure?” She left the question hanging before continuing. “The Lilith legend says that she either created the other worlds or that she found a way to visit them. She would visit other worlds, wreak havoc and then leave. The important thing in all of this, though, is the cloth, the green empty between the worlds. We are all agreed that something is out there, and it is something that we each have some knowledge in dealing with. Your Institute has been doing this far longer than I have”. Crystal said this as a statement. She expected them all to nod in agreement. “You will have to excuse me if I rule myself out of your little grouping”, David said. Daniel let out a small laugh because he was used to being the cynic in this group. Crystal had seemed a little meek, a little distant when he had first met her. He was learning that his first impression was wrong. “Yes, well”, Crystal said impatiently, “when you have been chased by a mannequin driving a car, then you may have a different view”. David thought about replying and arguing the point, but he kept quiet and allowed her to continue.
“The cloth is the void, the nether. It has many names, and it is where Lilith was trapped. It is the place where nightmares are born and raised, a place where the worse things imaginable exist. When Lilith escaped from there, she tore a hole in a fabric of reality. She broke the rule that should never have been broken. The rip got more extensive over time, and more things escaped. She jumped from world to world, causing more cracks, letting more seep through. Letting things escape. Others, well, some wanted to get in”.
“Why?” Daniel asked.
“Why wouldn’t they?” Crystal replied. “You have the secrets of it all there. This is a place where nobody was ever meant to step foot. I do not know if God is real, but I am pretty sure the Devil is. Imagine, though, if God was real? If he had this area where he kept his secrets. A peek behind the great wizard’s curtain to see something that was meant to be hidden forever. Gods sandbox”. The enthusiasm dripped from her voice as she spoke. Her eyes lit with a burning fire of passion. “Imagine being able to see it all from the outside, and to understand things in a different way. To be able to answer the question, why?”
“All while being eaten by a giant squid monster that can only be imagined and is the evilest thing ever created”, Lisa added, helpfully. “Oh”, Martin said, a trifle disappointed. The idea of seeing it all and understanding it was enticing, and who wouldn’t want to see that? “I don’t think we could even if we wanted too”, Crystal said. “I think only the dead can walk those plains. I suspect there are rules in place to stop us mortals from entering”.
“So then what is the point in telling us this?” Daniel asked. “If we can’t get there, then how is it relivent”.
“There are places in the world, our world, but no doubt others too”, Crystal continued. She ignored Daniel, “places where the veil is weakened, where it is relaxed or broken. Torn by Liliths actions. I think the house sits on one of those places. I think the house was a gateway designed to stop things from getting out, and I think whoever owned that house before tried to use it to get in”.
“Faustus!” Daniel said, without thinking. He moaned the name under his breath. “Was that his name?” Crystal asked without much interest. “Well, I suppose he is the one behind this. I think he entered the nether and then when you burnt the house down, he escaped”.
“It can’t be”, Lisa said, “I remember all of that from the time. Daniel saw Faustus in the house and grounds”. Crystal shook her head as she thought. “I don’t know”, she said, finally. “Maybe being that close to the tear, to the schism between it all means that echoes can escape? Maybe what you saw were ghosts?”
“Maybe you’re all mad…” David said out loud.
“Maybe…” Crystal said dejectedly. It made David feel a little guilty. “Sorry”, David said, “I am just struggling with this”.
“No, no. It is fine”, Danial said. “I am usually the cynical one. It helps to have a cynical voice”.
“But still, you don’t believe all this do you?” David asked. Daniel sat for a moment before he replied. Throwing ideas around his head before speaking. “I know what I saw when I went to that house”, Daniel said. “I know the housekeeper in the kitchen was there. I know that the well in the basement was”. Daniel stopped for a moment. Searching for the word. “Haunting? Disturbing? Oh, I don’t know”, he said. “Look, it scared the shit out of me. It was unnatural. Then when I got outside, I know Faustus was there. Finally I know that I shot myself and that I died”.
“You did what!” Crystal shouted. “You died on the site of that house and you only bring it up now?”
“They knew”, Danial said as he pointed his finger at Lisa and Martin. “Besides the quack said it must have been shock or something. He said there is no way that I died with a gunshot to the head”.
“You were shot in the head?” David asked.
“Yes…” Daniel started and then stopped. “No, I don’t know. This is all I have left”. Daniel tapped the scar on his forehead. “I shot myself, and somehow I survived”. Crystal looked at him with the look of someone who had just bought a vegan burger, only to find out it was real meat. “Suicide? Suicide, in a place where the tears are thinnest? Oh goody, I am so glad you told me this as soon as we met”, Crystal said. She stood up and turned to leave. “Don’t come near me, stay away from me. I want nothing to do with you”. She said whilst looking specifically at Daniel and then stormed from the room. “I’ll got after her”, Lisa said as she had stood. She left more mildly than Crystal, leaving the others. “She is braver than me!” Martin said with a smile, trying to lighten the mood.
“What about you?” Daniel asked David, “what are you going to do?”
“My mother always told me not to rush into things”, David said. “I have a lack of imagination, and at times I can’t think outside the box. It makes me a decent enough copper because most things play out as you’d expect. If you suspect the employee who is missing has stolen the money, then they probably have”.
“And if they haven’t?” Daniel asked. David looked at him. He has a look of sadness and loss on his face. “Then you dig, and you keep searching until you find something that fits. I can’t sit there and say, what if this or what if that. I need facts”.
“So you don’t believe this?” Martin asked. David held his hands out, palms upwards, as he looked at Martin. This is where I am, his gesture said. “Guys, I’m a pragmatist. I need something I can hold, something I can squeeze. I can’t take this back to my boss. He’ll think I’ve finally flipped and have me pensioned off. I do know that I saw nobody escape from that car. I was watching the whole time. Unless I blanked, and I do not think I did, nobody walked away. So I am searching the pieces for answers, trying to fit it all together”.
“So?” Martin asked.
“I told you. I am going to dig. I am going to dig into that house and see what I can find”.
They dug. The five all dug and looked for anything that could help. David did what he did best, and he looked into the history of the house and grounds. He found it difficult to believe what they did, but he couldn’t explain everything logically. That bothered him. If he could not explain it using logic, then what if they were right? The car had been empty – apart from the mannequin – he was sure of that.
The child and his parents. No drugs and no signs of any previous abuse, self-inflicted or otherwise. They had, so it seemed, fucked and ate each other. So it had seemed, David sighed. He was still ignoring the facts. They had fucked and eaten each other. A doll had attacked the child; was it possible, he thought, could it be? Doll and mannequin, he let the idea turn on his mind. They were similar, but was being similar enough? It would not have been enough in any typical case, but was this a routine case? What if the things Crystal had said were true?
Then he had the Church, another bizarre one. Some parishioners had traces of minor drug use, but nothing major. A little pot and other minor things. Just a smattering of insignificant drug use here and there, but nothing that could explain what happened. David had wondered if it was a Jim Jones type of affair. The American Cult Leader had taken his flock to Guyana and then killed so many of them in a mass suicide. It was, as with the family before, all bizarre and unexplainable.
The thief, now this one did have something, maybe nothing, but it was something.
The case file for the car that he had stopped had come through that morning, and it was a mess. Signed everywhere to make sure everyone knew it was a preliminary report and filled with lots of facts but so few helpful clues. The car had been stolen and reported as such. The lady who had reported the theft had been a victim. Coincidence? All the witnesses had seen the mannequin, and none had seen anyone else in the car. A few had been – understandably – hesitant about reporting a car being driven by a store mannequin. Still, when explicitly asked, they had confirmed it. This was all good stuff, and it confirmed what he knew but was loathed to admit to himself. The mannequin was driving the car. He had almost thought it appeared to have been driving. He was falling into the same trap again. Failing to follow the facts, no matter how strange they seemed. The facts said that nobody had seen anyone but the mannequin.
There was a link, a connection between two events. It could be nothing, but it could be something. When you have nothing, then you grasp at anything, David thought to himself. It was a thing that many of his younger colleagues may not have noticed, but the way the car had been hotwired was interesting. People leave clues everywhere, and they scatter evidence as if it were confetti at a wedding. Very few people can cover themselves when it comes to their style. Thieves will use the same method of entry year after year. An arsonist will repeatedly set the same fire type, and a car thief used the same techniques every time. A fingerprint of style. Newer cars filled with all the technology and computer gadgetry confused him. Had the car been newer, he’d have never seen the connection. Luckily the car had been older, and because of that, the link was as plain as day.
David had still referred to it as an old-school method; it was these days ancient. The thief had used too many wires. They had only needed to use four in this car but had opted for five. That was not all. The twisting of the grounds had been done in a double twist and fold. Suitable for reliability but quite unusual in this day and age. Was it a fluke event? Was it just one of those things? He looked at the report of the thief that lay on his desk. Five wires, double twist and a fold… But this guys head had been smashed in, so he couldn’t have stolen the car, could he? But then, with this case…
Crystal soaked in her bath. She had needed to wash the anger from herself. That was what she had told Lisa anyway, and it was half true. The other half of the truth was that she always thought better when lying in hot bubbly water. Lisa sat in the front room with a glass of wine. Crystal put her head back and tried to relax; she couldn’t. She would close her eyes and try to touch the house and grounds, just a light, tender tickle of a touch. She could reach so far and then came unstuck, like trying to grab the last crisp from a tube of pringles, only she couldn’t turn the house upside down and shake it free. Every time her spectral fingers could feel the rough edges, she was pushed back by something. Once again, she almost had it when her hand was pulled from the spiritual tube.
Lisa sat and sipped the wine. Not bad, not bad, she thought absently to herself. Lisa had a problem to solve, and the problem was this, how to get Crystal to help them. She felt that they needed Crystal. Daniel may have supposed different, but she could handle him. Martin would do as he was told, and that just left the Policeman, David. “I can do nothing about the Policeman”, Lisa said quietly to herself, “so push it from your mind, he will see that we were right in the end”. Crystal though… What to do about Crystal.
“So, what do you think?” Martin asked Daniel. “I think we’re fucked”, Daniel replied. “Could be, could be”, Martin said while he reached down into the drawer of his desk. Martin’s hand reemerged with a bottle of rum; he then went back and grabbed two glasses. “Want one?” He asked Daniel.
“No thanks, I am giving it a miss”, Daniel said as he shook his head. “What do we have on both Faustus and the house”, Daniel asked. He shoved a load of paperwork to one side so he could use Lisa’s desk. “It’s not much”, Martin said as he handed the files over. “But it is all we’ve got”.
Lisa was sat with her back to the door when it slammed open, and as such, she nearly jumped from the chair. “I know what I need to do”, Crystal said as she came into the room. She walked across the room, poured herself a glass of wine and sat opposite Lisa. Crystal leaned forwards and picked up her drink with a long towel wrapped around her and her hair wet and sticking to her shoulders. “So you’re in?”, Lisa asked. Crystal sighed, breathing out heavily through both nostrils before replying. “I don’t think I have much choice. This thing is coming no matter what I do”. Lisa had been worried about how she was going to convince Crystal. She looked over at the other woman and saw a determination. Now she worried about what Crystal had planned.