Keepers of Secrets by Patrick G Moloney.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Instalment sixteen of the Jack Burke crime mysteries.

Submitted: March 07, 2017

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Submitted: March 07, 2017



They were perilously close now to the invisible line, that area of water where lethal currents skirted the calmer waters of the cove. More than a few people had made the mistake of wading too far out over the years, once the current had you there was little hope of making it back to shore. The men had studied the tidal and current maps covering the whole of this stretch of coast line, over a hundred miles of ragged cliff and secluded bays and coves. They had chosen this very cove for its tidal and current combination, the records showed that in almost a hundred drownings over the past century. Fewer than twenty bodies had been recovered, the currents had taken the rest to god knows where. The wild Atlantic was a greater keeper of secrets, and what these men were giving up to her needed to remain secret. The older of the two men made all the decisions and had planned everything down to the finest detail; the people who hired him were extremely unforgiving when it came down to mistakes. He himself would be consider a very dangerous man and someone not to be trifled with, however even though he would never admit it. His latest employers terrified him; they were rich, powerful and ruthless. That, and the fact that they were into all kinds of creepy shit, the kind of stuff that defied the laws of god and man. Gave him a very healthy fear of them and it took a lot to scare this man, still the rewards outweighed the risks in his mind.

The older man had turned sideways now and shuffled a long, carefully feeling with one foot for the edge of the current. The cold water of the Atlantic was now at chest level causing him to gasp for breath, the sudden dragging sensation on his left leg caused him to stop moving. It was like an invisible force attempting to drag him further out to the dark sea, he beckoned to his young companion to pull the rubber raft to where he stood. The moon suddenly disappeared behind a cloud, plunging them into pitch darkness. It was as if the world had been removed from around them, leaving them abandoned in a light less abyss of freezing liquid. The sound of rapid breathing in the darkness told him the young man behind him was beginning to panic; just as he hissed at him to relax the moon reappeared. The bodies had been wrapped in hessian as it would disintegrate quickly, the mummy like figures floated for a while before the current snatched them. One moment they bobbed along like fishing floats, the next it was as if an unseen hand abruptly dragged them below the dark waters. The younger man had almost turned towards him, when the razor sharp curved blade of his knife sliced his throat open. It moved with such ease through the muscles and tendons it almost decapitated the man; he died with a look of utter surprise on his face. The older man cleaned the blade of the knife and returned it to his pocket, and then he pushed the fresh corpse out into the current and watched it being swept away.

The storm that had raged for the last three days had eventually blown itself out; it came as a relief for him. After three days in the small cottage he was beginning to get cabin fever, the radio gave a constant update on the reported damage the storm had left in its wake. Now standing on the cliff top the man with the cane took deep breaths of the sea air, so much time alone had not done his mental state much good. He could not get her out of his mind, even when he anaesthetised himself to the point of passing out with whisky. Mabel continued to occupy his mind and haunt his dreams; Jack knew she would never blame him for what had happened to her. However she was much more forgiving then him, in his mind he had failed miserably to protect her. He also knew she would never be safe until all those involved were gone, he would do everything he possibly could to make sure they all got their just rewards no matter how far down the rabbit hole he had to go. Movement in his peripheral vision disrupted his muse, he turned to look and below him at the foot of the cliff he saw the men. It was the local policeman and some local volunteers; he watched them manoeuvre carefully across the slippery rocks. Twenty minutes later he watched them carry the body out, a fisherman lost overboard was his first thought? The Atlantic Ocean was a great provider but it was also a harsh and unforgiving mistress.

He was just finished eating and he sat in front of the fire listening to the monotonous voice on the radio, apparently the roads in and out of Bell Harbour were impassable due to storm damage. The storm had also brought down the phone lines, so for all intent and purposes the community was cut off from the outside world. Well at least for a couple of days it would be, Jack was glad now he had taken to buying the Crested Ten Irish whisky by the case. He had just taken his first sip from the glass when the banging on the door started, whoever it was they were determined to be heard. The wind had gotten up again and it was raining, not another storm but typical coastal weather at this time of year. The police man looked like a deer caught in the headlights as he stood on the doorstep, the awkward silence told Jack. Now that he was here the policeman could not think of what to say. The cops face was pale and he gave an involuntary shiver, in the end Jack just stood back and beckoned him in. At first the man muttered something about being on duty, but he did not take much persuading in the end. It was only after the first glass of whisky the cop found his tongue, the purpose of his visit was to do with the body they recovered earlier. It turned out that recovering bodies from the Atlantic was a fairly regular occurrence, but bodies with their throat slit from ear to ear were not an everyday thing.

The make shift morgue was a cold storage unit by the harbour pier; it was normally used for storing fish before transport to the markets. The body had been laid out on a stainless steel gutting table. How the local police man knew of Jack’s years as a police detective was a mystery, however here he stood now leaning on his cane and looking at the body. Nothing in the dead man’s pockets gave any hint of who he was or where he came from, by the state of the body he had been in the water for a number of days. Whoever did for him had made sure there was no mistake; the slash across his throat had almost taken his head off. The cop had admitted to Jack that he had no experience in dealing with this kind of thing, hence his hasty trip to Jack’s cottage. The person who dumped this young man was no novice; they had obviously removed anything that could identify the man. The only thing Jack could recommend was to wait for the phone lines to be repaired, and then he could get the city to send out a team. In the mean time when it got light in the morning he needed to organise a search of the local coastline. If they got lucky something that could help identify him may have been washed up. On the way back to the cottage a strange feeling came over Jack. Later she came to him in his dreams; Mabel told him that the death of this man was connected to the darkness. As it turned out the body had been removed to the city several days before anything else was washed up on the shoreline.

The local cop was sitting in his car outside the cottage one morning when Jack returned from his walk. The look on his face was enough to tell Jack something else had happened, he followed Jack into the cottage. He had been brushed aside and ridiculed by the two detectives that had come from the city; they had conducted their own slipshod enquiry and left quickly. It was obvious to anyone with a nose on their face that they had little or no interest in this case, and even less in including the local police force in their operations. Jack had seen it all before, anything out side of their own precinct was a distraction in their eyes. The body would remain on ice for a while and then end up as a John Doe in an unmarked grave; the paperwork would end up gathering dust with the rest of the cold cases. So it was little surprise to Jack that the local guy was in no hurry to contact the city again, so for the second time in under a fortnight Jack found himself tagging along with the local constabulary. They were no sooner inside the building when the second body was brought in; the volunteers left it beside the other one on the cold room floor. Images of burials at sea came to mind as he looked at the figures wrapped in cloth; it was as if they had been from one of the old sailing ships of yester year.

With a slight gesture of his head Jack signalled to the local cop, there was nothing slow about this guy and he immediately cleared the room. Everyone bar one heavy set man was asked to leave; the cop introduced him as a retired doctor that had a cottage near the harbour. A second stainless steel gutting table had been placed alongside the first. Now came the tricky part they needed to get the bodies from the floor to the tables. Jack looked at the old doctor and realised he would not be up to heavy lifting, he would have to help and hope he did no further damage to his back. Too light by far was his first impression, there was no way they were real bodies. Well the only way they would know for certain was by cutting the cloth from them. ‘Mummies’ was the only word that would come to mind, the skin was stretched across the bone structure like parchment. They looked as if they could have been dug out from one of the pyramids, but the faint outline of a cupid tattoo on the upper shoulder of one. Told a different story, they were far from ancient, also the filling in one of the teeth of the shorter woman looked recent enough. The openings in their chests were identical, and in the doctors opinion had been done post the mummification process. Both of the unfortunate women had been young, mid-twenties to early thirties the doctor guessed.

Jack’s mind zoned out as the two men discussed ever more bizarre theories as to the origin of the bodies, everything from being dumped by a passing ship. To being carried by the currents from another place altogether, were mentioned. But their voices were only so much background noise to him by now, Jack already knew that without a shadow of a doubt evidence of the darkness had be washed up in Bell harbour. Once again Tom Brennan the lone police officer for this area would have to call in the city boys, and once again he would suffer the indignity of being treated like an imbecile. There was nothing Jack could do to prevent this chain of events happening, and Brennan would be once more reminded that in their eyes he was a poor copy of a real cop. But Jack also knew that he would be doing his own investigation, and it would be without the knowledge of either village or city police authorities. Jack spent another while committing as much as he could to memory about the bodies, in the absence of photographs he would have to be able to describe in detail to the collector what had been found here. He left the two men theorising about the bodies, he had an urgent call to make.

The collector arrived at the cottage with the green eyed girl in tow. Jack had begun now to understand, that this lady only showed up when things were serious. When Jack had called the conversation had been mostly one way, at one stage he thought that connection had been lost. It was only when he had talked himself out that the collector spoke; even then it was just to tell him that he would be arriving in Bell Harbour the following day. Jack’s intuition had been spot on, well that was not surprising as Mabel had already made her feelings known to him about this. Wherever these bodies had originated from may have been a mystery at the moment, but the collector was certain how they died. Some body somewhere had used these young women in an occult rite, and that someone would now be in the possession of their mummified hearts. These hearts would be of great value to those who practised the dark arts, the collector wanted Jack and the girl to locate them. In another time Jack would have dismissed all of this as the ramblings of a deranged mind, but that was before he became one of the few that actually gets to glimpse what lies beyond the shadows.

The disused light house had been turned into a dwelling house; changing technology had made it redundant. It stood on a bleak outcrop of rocks staring into the savage beauty of the North Atlantic Ocean. The surface of the old wooden kitchen table was completely covered with various maps and charts, each of them dedicated to the tides and currents covering an area from the Canadian border to Bell harbour. Various marks and notations had been added to these maps over a long period of time, outside the wind raged and the sea continued its relentless pounding of the foundations of the old building. But here in the kitchen there was complete silence, Jack and Anna watched the old man with the beard as he pored over the maps, the old captains hat he always wore was pushed to the back of his head. The old man paused and lit his pipe, a sweet aromatic cloud of smoke drifted across to them. Albert Price had lived his entire life in close proximity to these treacherous waters; he had gone to sea at fourteen as a deck hand on a fishing trawler. If anyone could give them an idea about how the bodies came to be washed up here it would be him, Albert took a swig out of the steaming coffee cup, and then topped it up with another splash of dark rum. He had been silently going over these maps for the past hour; every now and again he would cross reference an area with the book he recorded storms in.

The red circle that Albert drew covered an area of shoreline roughly a hundred miles north of Bell Harbour; within this circle were quite a number of possibilities. But at least it was somewhere to begin, after that it just might come down to luck. A call to the collector managed to narrow it down even further, a cluster of missing persons in that region finally gave them somewhere to target. The police officer that brought them the missing persons file made no attempt to hide his interest in Anna, the collector had somehow managed to fix it for them to review all the missing persons files for the Oldton area. Oldton was the major centre of population for this region, and it was only five miles from the rugged coastline and slap bang in the centre of the circle Albert Price had drawn on the map. For a city the size of it, Oldton seemed to have more than its fair share of missing persons. There were quite a number of young women over the past few years, but none appeared to be recent enough to account for the ones that had washed up in Bell Harbour. Jack took notes of a few of the more recent files, it would have been frowned upon but Anna kept the cops attention distracted. The following day they would call to some of the families of those missing, but he wanted to visit the shoreline before it got dark. They had scarcely left the police building when the man who favoured the knife with the curved blade received a call, their arrival in Oldton had not gone unnoticed and the purpose of their visit was known when they visited the police station.

Daylight was fading fast by the time they parked above the small cove, from where they stood overlooking the water Jack could see the subtle changes in the water surface fifty yards out. Albert Price had explained to him what to look for; these subtle differences on the surface of the water usually marked where the currents swept past. The breeze blowing off the water carried her voice to him, she told him this was where the bodies had come from. But the strangest thing was, when he told Anna that this was the place she just nodded in agreement. Jack and the woman with the emerald green eyes were not alone as they looked out on the secluded little cove, the watchers were being watched by a man who had been to this place before. A man who knew the exact spot where the current takes everything that enters it, as he watched the man with the cane and his female partner he absent mildly tested the razor sharp curved blade of the Karambit. The man now pondered on the fact of how the sea had so easily given up her secrets. These two would learn the power of the current that skirted the little cove, and hopefully this time the Atlantic would keep his secret. The man with the knife could not afford any more unforeseen situations, the commissioner and the people above him liked their secrets kept. It was an extremely volatile combination, men with power who held dark secrets.

Jack woke from a troubled sleep and was immediately aware that something was wrong; he had slept fully clothed on the bed as he did whenever he was in a strange place. He listened intently as he tried to figure out just what had woken him, and then the sound of furniture being knocked over came from Anna’s room. The man’s hand moved like a blur before Jack could reach him and he heard Anna moan, the impact of the ornate cane on the man’s head moments later sent a shudder through Jack’s shoulder. The attacker crumpled to the floor and lay still, another moan from the woman diverted Jack’s attention to where she lay. The curved blade had laid her check open exposing her teeth; Jack got her to her feet and pressed a towel to her wound. The woman sat there without a sound as the towel became soaked with blood, while Jack tied the unconscious man and got him to the trunk of his car. Later outside the hospital she insisted on walking in to the casualty department herself, Jack drove in the direction of the cove with a growing darkness inside. The man came around almost as soon as the cold water washed over him; Jack knelt beside him and went to work on him with the curved blade. To give him his due he never screamed or pleaded once, but in the end he shook uncontrollable as he told Jack what he wanted to hear. Jack dragged the body to where the current met the calmer water, in moments the tortured remains were swept into the inky blackness of the water.

The commissioner of police for Oldton and district stood by the marble fireplace in his study and watched the bundle of papers turn to ash. The missing person’s files in the grate covered the two girls that the man with the cane had been asking about; the carved wooden casket on his desk contained their mummified hearts. He was in the ideal position to provide human parts for their rituals and had been doing so for many years, to say he was angry that these people had turned up asking questions would be an understatement. He was in fact livid and he intended make this abundantly clear to the man who he had entrusted with disposing of the bodies. Still the man had another chance to redeem himself; if he managed to get rid of the nosey parkers he just might have saved his own life. The shrill ring of the phone brought a smile to his face; this would be him calling to confirm the man and woman were no longer any threat. The woman’s voice sounded strange as if her mouth was somehow malformed; the lisping voice sent a cold shiver down his back. “Your secret is out” that simple statement filled him with terror; the terror was short lived as Jack stepped from the shadows and slit his throat from ear to ear. Jack dropped the curved bladed knife beside the body; it would be covered in the finger prints of a man that now lay on the bottom of the Atlantic.

The man with the cane stood on the harbour peer and watched the collector step from Albert Prices’ boat, they had had sailed beyond the harbour a few hours before. Now the collector returned but without the small carved casket. Jack knew beyond any doubt that the casket containing the mummified hearts would never surface again; Albert Price knew exactly where to place secret things. The old seafarer knew where to whisper secrets that the Atlantic would keep. The collector had a brief conversation with Albert and they shook hands. Jack knew instinctively that another person had just been added to the circle, later as they sat at the kitchen table in the cottage. Jack asked after Anna and how she was recovering, the collector sipped his whisky and pondered for a while. “She will bear the scar of the blade Jack, but then again the same woman carries more scars then we will ever know”. Later Jack watched him drive away and wondered to himself, just how many scars the collector carried and how many secrets he kept.



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© Copyright 2018 Patrick G Moloney. All rights reserved.

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