Our story begins much like many before it, with the sun lighting up the sky, seeping through the remnants of night playing havoc with colour and density and creating all manner of iridescence. The sound of birds in the distance, calling to their young urging them to fledge and begin this life which they had yet to experience. A life of purity, of survival and natural law. One which is governed by man. But for how much longer?
Miles away, upon a hill, within Wraith’s creek the sound of commotion fills the air. Photograph flashes litter the scene as chaos emanates from the surrounding onlookers. Bracing one another and struggling to comprehend that which, to others, was so clear a young girl had been reported missing. Her parents worried about her safety. Days passed with not a sign of life or even a trail to follow. Except for a form deep in the woods. Restricted by fence and wire, by blood stained wood and outward-facing stakes. As if to barricade against outsiders or perhaps to keep something in!
The girl’s body was found in quite a state. She had been buried alive and at least partly consumed! But to what end? It was unclear. For the marks resembled something inhuman. No fingerprints were ever found and there were no leads to any person who could have done this. The farm was all but empty except for a lone owl that always seemed to roost in the barn’s uppermost cavity. A silo to the east, and the house in its centre were all that remained of the ones who once dwelt there.
But, as we journey to the centre of this grand nation, the smog of the city welcomes me. As I glance upon Scotland Yard. To begin our twisted tale.
“This case is over ten years old. Why in the world would you want to re-open it?” asks the chief inspector.
“It was never solved, was it? No murderer was ever found. No peace of mind for the parent’s sake, don’t we owe them that?” remarks a young officer.
“Look, I realise that you are new here, but you will take years to learn the tricks of the trade and even longer to reveal things that others cannot see. Besides it’s too far away? Do yourself a favour, will you? Let this case go and pursue another one. It seems that murder is your calling, otherwise we wouldn’t have requested your transfer here,” reveals the inspector.
“Look Chief Inspector Miles, I appreciate you accepting my transfer, but my father worked this case and he came to no resolution. Shortly after that, he disappeared off the face of the planet! Leaving me and my mother to fend for ourselves.”
“And you believe officer Raymond, that in solving this case you may find your father? He has been missing for ten years. Much like this girl and like her, he vanished without a trace of evidence or anything leading to his trail. Which is half the reason …,” Chief Inspector Miles tries to continue.
“Yes, I am well aware, Chief Inspector. If my father is found he will be apprehended for being the chief suspect in this investigation. But until such time, I would like to be permitted a chance to redeem my family name. Understood?” Raymond insists.
“Very well, Officer. On your head be it! Just know this. Many good policemen have buried themselves in cases like this one and after finding nothing, could not return to active duty. All I ask is that you don’t end up being the same,” warns Miles.
“I assure you Sir I am quite content with what I find. No matter what the verdict is,” Raymond assures him.
“I hope so officer. Because any case that involves that farm, Wraith’s Creek, is sure to test your worth; as a police officer and as a human being,” Miles adds.
“Meaning what exactly Sir?” asks Raymond.
“Well, some say that the farmland is haunted. Now whether it’s ghosts, ghouls or just a mad criminal I don’t know. All I do know is that in the past year several cases have been reported for missing persons, and every one of them has involved that farm,” continued Miles.
“Why send the cases here to London?” enquired Raymond.
“No one knows. Brought to us by unknown hands it would seem,” admitted Miles.
“All the more reason to investigate then Sir, don’t you think?”
With a nod of consent from chief inspector Miles, officer Charles Raymond sprang to his feet, wrestled past all his colleagues to do that which he had quested the entirety of his life for.
Edging towards the unknown, he opened the door to his police car, with its pre-war appearance and black on white colouration. He took a commanding position at the steering wheel, clutching it with purpose and coaxed the engine to life with provocative intent. The tyres screeched on the tarmac and the vehicle moved toward the outskirts of the town, towards Wraith’s Creek.
Winding roads leading atop a valley, carved by nature, were filled with a series of oak and beach woodlands where only the mind could wonder freely, lest all else becomes lost in its dark and weary contents. By nightfall it is almost impossible to navigate and during the day there is not much improvement. Yet his vehicle rages on at breakneck speed; coursing through the twists and turns, racing toward a destiny longing to be revealed.
Suddenly the police car jerked and shifted direction, diverging to the left and it began to head down a country lane, toward an open area of woodland where it is said residents of Wraith’s Creek resided.
A series of small houses, surrounded by quaint little fences, only added to the already natural appearance. Their silver varnish accompanied by the pure white bark of Beech used in their furnishing. The small encampment consisted of several families. The Morrison family; Eustace, Mildred and Tucker their only child. The Thamesbury family; Jim and Moira, and the Otterman family; old Clive, Andrew, Daphne and Billy, with their young companion Sampson. These were quiet people who paid attention more to their own rather than to deal in business that was not of interest. Alas this day would be different and gain much attention for this officer had quite the reputation and these families saw an opportunity not only to meet a new acquaintance but to ensure that they were all the centre of idle chit-chat. News travelled fast in a backwater town such as this and the arrival of a new policeman was enough to arouse suspicion in even the most reclusive of residents. The police car slowed, and officer Raymond takes his first steps into the newest of territory with only the sounds of the woods and the wind, caressing the tree’s foliage. As he enters all is quiet and serene for the moment. In the distance, a gathering of people starts to rise as they make their way toward him.
Reluctantly officer Raymond steps forward. “Afternoon all, I am aware that this is highly irregular, but I am conducting a police investigation into the disappearance of a young girl by the name of Elizabeth Reigns. Any information, from any of you, would be most appreciated including where she was found and who she may have been in contact with? I realise that it was a long time ago,” says Raymond.
“Officer, it has been a long time but little has happened since. Our memories, I assure you, have not recovered from the disappearance of that poor little girl,” one of the residents admits.
“Well, as I said before, any information that you have would prove useful in this case.” He introduces himself. “I am officer Raymond and you all are?”
“I am Eustace, and this is my wife Mildred. This is our only son Tucker.”
“A pleasure to meet you all I’m sure,” Raymond responds.
“Jim and Moira Thamesbury. At your service.”
“Charmed,” Raymond adds.
“I am Clive, and this is Andrew, Daphne and Billy. And somewhere around here is Sampson. But where exactly? Only God knows.”
Raymond asks, “Do you often allow your children to roam unaccompanied?”
“Well, how can they learn about the world that they live in unless they explore it and deal with danger themselves? Plus, the fact is, he is twenty-three years of age,” says Clive.
“Was Elizabeth Reigns exposed to such a danger as well?” asks Raymond.
“We all warned her plenty of times not to visit that cursed farm, in the midst of the woods, and no matter how many times we told her, she insisted on returning there. Time after time. Eventually she stopped coming back. Her parents worried for days searching that wretched land for her. From top to bottom and they found nothing. Several days later they found her lying on the ground half-eaten and otherwise buried!” Eustace recalls.
“Yes, I am aware of the report. The part that was eaten was ascribed to have been passing crows, as they can be the only culprits for such a massacre of one’s lower appendages. Unless it was wild foxes? Some cases have been known to happen before in times of want,” Raymond suggested.
Daphne Otterman replies, “Officer if you will pardon our bluntness? It was no accident that she was killed. But it certainly was animal in nature. As to her lower remains being consumed …”
“What do you mean, Miss Otterman?” Raymond enquired.
“I mean Officer, that the farm is not empty, and it certainly wasn’t a human who took her young life,” Daphne continued.
“Oh, shut up Daphne! With your tall tales of haunted farms and superstitious stories of animal spirits,” Clive rants.
“Shut your mouth Clive! I know what you saw and what I saw,” Daphne defended herself.
“Exactly, two totally different things,” says Clive. “I saw a bunch of moss attached to a pillar and she sees a ghost moving in the wind! Ha, a likely tale,” belittling Daphne.
Officer Raymond interjects, “Well, despite superstition I am here to investigate the facts and I will only accept so much … Now, I highly doubt that a ghost is responsible for Miss Reign’s death, but I will visit this farmland at some point. So, stay in town as I may have further need of you all as I don’t know the land, would anyone care to accompany me?” asks Raymond.
“I will Sir. This way, this way,” offers Sampson.
“Sampson get back here!” Billy yells.
“Let him go Billy. The boy is as excited as a school child and I’m sure that Officer Raymond won’t mind keeping an eye on him. Will you?” asks Andrew Otterman relieving himself of any responsibility.
“My pleasure Andrew, my pleasure,” officer Raymond answers, with a look of determination crossing his face. He turns his body in the direction of the farm pursuing the boy as though a predator after its quarry.
Raymond says, “Slow down young Sampson. I don’t know these woodlands as well as you do and am likely to become lost.”
Each crack and snap of a branch, or a twig, alerts the woodland to officer Raymond’s presence, disturbing the peace and the tranquillity, whilst maintaining a sense of alertness about him.
“This way Sir, this way!” Sampson shouts from afar; almost causing officer Raymond to jump in surprise and to laugh in fear, over that which he had no need of.
“Here we are Sir. The outermost gates,” Sampson points.
“How well do you know this area, young Sampson?” Raymond asks, following him.
“As well as you know your clothes Sir,” Sampson replies.
“I see, and did you know Elizabeth Reigns Sampson?” Raymond asks.
“Yes Sir we would often play together here at Farmland, during our younger years that is. But one day I invited her up here and she didn’t come back. I looked everywhere for her and found nothing, but then … I saw something awful Sir!” Sampson reveals.
“You found her in the mud?” Raymond asks.
“No Sir! I saw what happened to her! Every detail, but if I told you, you would laugh like all the others,” Sampson exclaims.
“Not if it was the truth, Sampson. I implore you to think back and tell me what happened that day,” Raymond coaxes him.
“Well Sir, I don’t know exactly what I saw. It was dusk and way past home time. I rushed back and I heard Elizabeth scream. I turned around and came back. I saw her being dragged into the barn and I heard awful noises. Grunting and mooing, as though the animals were scared by her but then I heard something else. A cutting noise and something leaking. I thought it might have been a drain pipe. After opening the barn door, ever so slightly, I saw the animals all gathered around her as though they had witnessed it happen. I don’t know who did it. I think that it was an accident. But being dragged in by something that was no accident Sir!” Sampson recalls.
“Well Sampson, I don’t know what you saw that night, but I intend to find out. Much like my father before me I want to see this case resolved once and for all, but for that I may need your help,” Raymond confides to the boy.
“You mean you believe me?” Sampson asks, amazed.
“Well, you may not know who actually did it but what you saw is definitely valuable, young Sampson. Now show me where you found Elizabeth,” Raymond asks him.
“This way Sir, this way.”
After clambering over the blood red fence posts and dodging reels of barbed wire, officer Raymond and young Sampson attempted to find where poor Elizabeth had been found, but as officer Raymond was about to discover; all was not as it seemed, and little Elizabeth might not have been the only one claimed by that hallowed ground.
Nearing the fields. They both took-up crouched positions in expectancy, and proceeded further into the allure of their surroundings.
“Sampson?” Raymond asks.
“How long have you known of this place?” Raymond asks him.
“Several years Sir but it has been here for hundreds of years. Well at least that’s what Clive and the Morrisons say” Sampson answers.
“And how long has it been deserted for?” Raymond probes.
“I’m not sure, but people have been going missing for a long time. Even when Clive was a child or so he says,” continues Sampson.
“How old is Clive? Early forties perhaps?” Raymond asks.
“I think he is fifty-two? I think,” Replies Sampson.
“Some years indeed,” says Raymond.
As officer Raymond ponders the expanse of this neglect he turns his head and admires the woodland view, only to be drawn back to gaze at the barn, mesmerised by its wind-induced instruments.
“Are we close, Sampson?” Raymond asks.
“Yes, Sir, right there is where she was. I remember it as though it were yesterday,” Sampson reveals traumatised.
“Yes, I know it must have been very traumatic for you. Think of how was she lying? Facing us or facing in another direction?” Raymond asks.
“She was facing away from us toward the woodland,” Sampson remarks.
The legions of oak and beech stood aside a pathway hollowed into the overgrown heather and brambles.
“I see, so she could have been attacked from behind and dragged toward the barn?” Raymond enquires.
“Possibly but what stopped them from carrying her inside?” Sampson asks.
“I’m not sure. Perhaps you startled them?” Raymond suggested.
“Not likely Sir, and she was half buried when I found her,” describes Sampson.
“Surely you called her name?” Raymond coaxes.
“Once or twice Sir,” Sampson answers.
“Well then, that would have alerted them to your presence?” Raymond confirms.
“Yes Sir, but don’t you remember I saw her in the barn and I heard screams,” Sampson recalls.
“So, she was buried after you had discovered her? How long was it before you returned here?” Raymond enquires. Starting to become confused.
“Several days Sir, I was so scared that I did not leave the house. Let alone venture out here,” Sampson said.
“So why return now?” Raymond asks.
“I returned a few weeks back Sir,” Sampson admits.
“But this case is ten years old isn’t it?” Raymond states.
“Well then Sir, time must be passing by fast as I have only visited on a few occasions after that day,” replies Sampson confusing Raymond further.
“How long was it until you found Elizabeth’s body exactly?” Raymond attempts to clarify this.
“The next day Sir. I was scared but I had to know what happened to her.”
“Understandable, and then?” Raymond pursues.
“I didn’t return for another five years at least Sir,” Sampson concludes.
“Your stories appear very confused, Sampson?” Raymond declares.
“Yes Sir, my apologies, the trauma, it plays tricks with my mind I suppose,” Sampson attempts to explain.
“I see and were the authorities involved at all?” Raymond asks.
“Oh yes Sir. A few days after I found her it was all over the newspapers.” Sampson reveals.
“And what did they conclude?” Raymond asks.
“That it was an animal attack, but they couldn’t tell whether it was a wild or a tame animal,” Sampson replies.
“Tame?” questioned Raymond.
“Yes, sometimes dogs have been known to attack small children,” Sampson offers.
“Yes, but to devour them as well?” Raymond asks, surprised.
“Natural instincts would kick in I suppose,” Sampson comments.
“And what about someone being the killer?” Raymond queries.
“All were questioned, and no evidence was found,” Sampson admits.
“Well, we’ll see about that. Are you sure this is the place?” Raymond asks.
“Absolutely!” Sampson confirms.
“Very well then, the ground is reddish clay with a brown overlay. Is it much different from how it was then?” Raymond attempts to prove otherwise.
“No Sir, in fact almost exactly the same. As if time stood still here,” Sampson eerily mutters.
“Indeed, the report says that her face was severely damaged, beyond recognition, with multiple fractures to the skull, broken ribs, lacerations to the torso and arms, with the lower body severed and eaten!” Raymond reads from the report.
“No don’t! Stop!” Sampson writhes.
“I apologise Sampson, but I must find the truth no matter how traumatic it is.”
After a few moments of heightened respiratory activity Sampson calms himself and continues in aiding Raymond.
“The lower torso was eaten?” Raymond asks.
“Yes, that is correct but only bone fragments were found. Nothing which could say clearly that it was Elizabeth’s,” Sampson states.
“If not Elizabeth then to whom did they belong to?” Raymond ponders.
“As I said Sir, a lot of people have been reported missing in Wraith’s Creek.”
The sky had blackened, and rain began to fall washing the clay into a pool of bloody water and semi-drowning officer Raymond and Sampson. They both ran for shelter and chose the barn, to try and stay dry.
Failing to get further answers, Raymond asks, “Is this the barn where you witnessed everything?”
“Yes Sir,” Sampson confirms.
“Tell me exactly where you were in relation to her?” Raymond queries.
“I was over here Sir, by the door. On the other side, in fact, looking in” Sampson replies. “Where was she?” Raymond asks trying to understand.
“Over there hanging up!” exclaims Sampson pointing toward the centre of the barn where a lone hook dangled. Its head was attached to a mighty chain, forged from solid steel, and strong enough to hoist a large weight.
“Hanging up?” Raymond murmurs.
“Yes, Sir, she was dangling there, and the chain was here.” He placed his hand on the top of officer Raymond’s back, just between the shoulder blades.
“I see, and the animals?” Raymond asks.
“Gathered around her, here. All around here.” Slowly scuffing a circle, with his foot, into the grain infused ground and attempting to recreate the scene.
“And what signs were there of human intervention?” Raymond continues.
“Only the lever Sir. It was down when I saw it but as you can see it is up now?” Sampson comments.
“Very well let’s see what it does?” Raymond suggested.
“I’ll be surprised if it still works Sir” Sampson commented.
As Raymond pulls the lever the chain jerks and kinks wrenching, swinging, and catching Raymond’s arm as it swings upward leaving behind a small yet significant wound.
“Are you all right Sir?” Sampson proclaims.
“Yes Sampson. Just a scratch is all. Nothing which can’t heal under the right circumstances,” said Raymond, favouring his arm in an attempt to conceal the pain, that now tormented his every twitch, muscle and vein. All added to the throbbing sensation that travelled northward throughout his being. “Now tell me Sampson, did anyone dust this for fingerprints?” Raymond ?asked.
“I don’t know Sir. Maybe?” Sampson said.
“Let’s see what we can see, shall we?” Officer Raymond reaches for an ultra-violet light emitter and shines it onto the neck of the lever. It glows with a high visible blue radiance, the likes of which can only be described as fantasy.
“Wow Sir, how did you do that?” Sampson said, enviously.
“Well you see young Sampson, if blood is present it shines blue when it’s exposed to ultra violet light and this emitter does just that. However, it isn’t fascinating, it’s quite horrific!” Raymond states.
“How so?” Sampson asks.
“Whoever operated this lever was immersed in blood. As the lever is almost covered in it. See here?” says officer Raymond as he leans his emitter further towards the eastern side of the lever. The trail continues from the dials and devices, and leads towards the centre of the barn. With only flecks left behind as a reminder of the darkness which had transpired. “And here? See the glowing blue flecks?” Raymond points out.