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A Santa Maria story
James M. Sullivan
Start from the beginning of the Santa Maria series
Mac descended the rough-hewn stairs; they were carved into the Santa Cruz Mudstone, the unusually hard sedimentary rock that forms most of the coastline of Santa Maria. The stairs followed along a twisting cavern that descended far below the sea level. It smelled strongly of saltwater and dead creatures of the ocean. Mac carried a flashlight in one hand and used the other to balance himself on the slimy stairs, which were covered in dripping kelp remnants and sea moss. His magical bow was strapped to his back.
The final turn of the stairway deposited him at a small pool of water that was the floor of a small cavern, which extended no more than ten feet in any direction. Mac first scanned the water with the flashlight, and then cautiously stepped into the subterranean pond. He took a few steps and bent at the knees, using the light and his free hand to explore the pool more closely. Carved into the rock, he discovered ornate lines that interwove and were embellished with swirls and triangular and hexagonal symbols that overlaid the lines. The symbols were cut deeper and wider than the lines; almost a masculine cut as opposed to the femininity of the swirling lines. Each symbol contained a different lightly carved, complex geometric design, reminiscent of Islamic tile art. Mac's fingers were absently tracing one of the designs within a triangle.
Odd. The stone is smooth here, he thought.
"Old magic." He started. "Older than the city, love." Enid's voice crept into his head.
"I'm still not quite used to you all being there," he said aloud.
"Moppet, it's not really us, but I. When the shell is gone, that person is truly gone, but their knowledge and personality is bound within the avatar. You'll become more comfortable with the concept in time. In the meantime, love, I understand that it is easier for you to still think of Enid as being with you. And you needn't speak aloud."
I know, he thought, it's just unfamiliar still, communicating like this. Turning his attention again to the carvings, he pondered, What do the symbols mean? They are almost… mesmerizing.
"That love, would take far too long to explain, even in brief. They are what holds in what must remain within and are what allows that which must pass to pass. Follow the lines to the center."
Mac straightened his legs and waded to the center of the pool, using the beam of light to illuminate the guiding lines. At the center was a large hexagon, about a foot across, with a simple 11-sided polygon—a hendecagon—inside which were several twisting lines originating at its walls and curling inward towards the center of the shape. In the very center of the hendecagon was an eight-pointed star. He knelt and plunged his hand through the water to touch the innermost symbol.
Was that my instinct or your knowledge?
"Yes," came the answer.
The symbol at the center of the pond began to glow a soft golden hue and the carving began to rumble; it was a soft hum and slight vibration, but it was enough to gently rock the water.
Suddenly Mac lost his footing; the floor of the pond had dropped several feet in a moment. Water came pouring in from newly revealed openings in the sides of what now appeared to be more of a well, rather than a pond. He was caught in the torrent of water before he could hit the rocky floor. He was buffeted about the crashing water as the empty space was filled. He had lost his grip on the flashlight, but the bow was still safely lashed to his back. Mac gasped and sputtered as he struggled to tread water and stay above the waves. Once the new structure was filled, the water calmed, and as Mac began swimming to the edge, a light caught his eye.
He dunked his head under and looked. The center symbol was now radiating a bright golden-white light; the darkened flashlight lay a few feet away. Mac broke the surface and began swimming towards the rim.
I have to get out of here.
Then the water began to glow with the same golden light. Just before he reached the edge, the water abruptly began spinning into a funnel. Mac was swept towards the center and then down the whirlpool.
Daphne Nolan sat at her desk rubbing her temples. When her intercom buzzed, she sighed and hesitantly reached over to press the talk button.
"Detective Yazzie is here to see you, Mayor Nolan," chimed the cheerful voice.
"Please send him in." Daphne stood and waited for the detective to enter. A moment later, the door opened and a somewhat portly man with a deeply creased face the color of burnt sienna walked through. He was dressed in a blazer and tie, and his black jeans were held up by a belt with a very large buckle that was in the likeness of an eagle.
"Evening Mayor. Thanks for seeing me so late," he said. His voice was deep, yet soft. He shut the door behind him. She gestured for him to take a seat and she returned to her chair. He sat down with a sort of thump and let out a burst of air that was followed by a short cough. "We have a problem."
"You mean besides a serial murder?"
"Yes, but it's related. A New Dawn weapon was found at the last crime scene. It was collected and catalogued by someone not from my team. We've taken possession of it now, but I doubt Officer Reyes will accept that it just turned up missing. She's a good officer, but she's going to cause trouble over this… Unless we bring her into the fold."
"Tom, I hesitate to bring anyone into this world that shouldn't be—that doesn't have to be." She pulled her fingers back through her hair. "But I trust your judgment. If you think it's best, do it."
"I do. She's a good forensics person and frankly, we need all the help we can get in keeping the cops unaware of the fact that the serial killer is supernatural and likely more than one of whatever it is. My team is overtaxed and underpaid."
"With all the damage from the quake, I doubt I'll be able to find any extra funds, Tom. I know you and your team are doing the best you can, and I know it's not easy not being part of this world, yet having to live in it. Would you be willing to work with any of the people in Santa Maria who are part of it?"
"Maybe. Set up a meeting and I'll talk to whomever you have in mind. We'll see if we can come to some sort of agreement."
"Okay, Tom. I will. Anything else?"
"No, that about does it, Mayor." Detective Yazzie used his arms to push himself up off of the chair. "I'll see you soon."
"Take care, Tom."
"Rodrigo, Bree's out in the yard. She insisted on watching the sunset. Would you take this blanket out to her, please?" Bree's mother asked.
Rod nodded. "Of course, Mrs. Montgomery."
"Now Rodrigo, it's Helen, please. I insist. The way you're stepping up to help my Bree. It's awful that Duncan died with Bree in a family way. You've no reason to come in and help other than your good heart. Thank you. You are too kind."
"Okay, Helen it is, but only if you start calling me Rod," he said with a smile.
"Of course. Thank you, Rod. Do you want anything to drink?"
"No, I'm good, Helen. Thank you."
"Okay then. Make sure Bree bundles up, and I'll be out in a little while to see if either of you need anything." She smiled at him and then turned and left the room. Rodrigo tucked the blanket under his arm, slid open the glass door, and let himself into the garden.
Bree looked up and smiled, then waved him over. He went to her and began to wrap her in the blanket. She laughed.
"Oh, you're Mom now?" she continued to giggle.
"Well, no. Just one of her agents. She foisted the blanket on me. And she will be out here to check on us later. She's very worried, though I think she's also very happy about the baby."
"I know, but she's driving me crazy. I wish she wouldn't fuss so much. I feel trapped and my sister has proven to be of little help. She's been busy every day with interviews and blogging and all sorts of things dealing with the movie, and then she goes and buys a house! Can you believe it? So she's been fixing things and decorating. I can't believe this one movie paid her so well. She says she received an advance for the sequel. I guess everyone is pretty confident about the film. But because of all of this, she's only been over a couple of nights. So between that and not being able to participate in what is going on with, well, with the not-so-mundane aspects of our lives, I'm going stir crazy!"
"I'm sorry. I know this is tough. What can I do? Short of springing you, that is—I'm pretty sure your Mom could take me." He smiled.
"Yeah, I bet she could," she said, returning the smile. "Now, tell me what's going on with Mac and this business with Oliver. It sounded gruesome." She shuddered.
"Well, it was pretty awful, apparently. Mac came home and Oliver had been asleep on the couch and awoke screaming, blood coming from his eyes, as if he was crying blood. He won't talk about it. I think it may be related to what happened to Martha and her family."
"My God, that is horrible! But why would you think they are connected? Has he had similar episodes with the other murders?" Bree asked.
"No, but this was the first time someone from our world died; someone who knows about all the woojie shit that goes on."
"Hmmm… I don't know. I think it's more than that. I mean, yes what happened to poor Martha and her family is ghastly and horrific, but I don't know that just because Martha knew about what really goes on would be enough for a connection with Oliver. In some stories, fairies and elves and such are soothsayers; maybe he was having a vision about the killings in general. Or what is doing it."
"Maybe, Mac did mention finding a map in what was left of Enid's shop. It was a map of the city and he said he thought it showed that there was a growing evil in the city, but he said not to be alarmed because he didn't really know what the map or the mark on it meant."
"Not to worry about a growing evil? Yeah, like that's going to happen. The last time evil came to town a whole lot of people died. Rod, this could be serious. This could be related to the killings. In fact, I'm sure of it. We need to do something. Now."
"Bree, calm down. Mac is dealing with it. He says he is checking out what it may be. He said something about making sure the earthquake hadn't freed anything that shouldn't be free."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I don't know… these days he's just as cryptic as Enid was. But if there were those freaky mole people below Santa Maria, who knows what else could be below the city? I guess any number of things could have escaped and been committing the murders."
"Well, this is too much supposition for comfort. We should talk to Oliver and figure out what he knows."
"He's with Ant right now. Let me call him and see if Oliver is available. If he is we'll figure out how to sneak you out of the house." Rodrigo chuckled again. He retrieved his cellular phone from his pocket, flipped it open, and pressed the speed-dial key for Ant's number. He held it to his ear and waited. Ant's voicemail began and Rod left a message. "Hey, give me a shout back. I want to see if Oliver's up for company. Bree would really like to see him." With that, he flipped the phone shut to end the call and returned it to his pocket. "I guess they're busy."
"Fuck!" Ant forced the word through clenched teeth. He banged on the elevator doors that he had just missed. Skipping into the elevator is dangerous. The timing has to be perfect. If I skip into the lobby to catch him, someone might see me "pop" into existence. Fuck. Wait a minute; I should be able to come in on the top of it!! Ant vanished from in front of the elevator doors.
He reappeared about five feet above the moving elevator car. He came crashing down on it, ripping open both his jeans and his knee.
"Fuck!" He grabbed his knee and sucked air through his teeth. "Damn it!" Blood was beginning to drip through his fingers. He moved his hand and looked at the wound. It was about an inch long and not deep. He wiped his hand on his jeans and began to try and open the emergency hatch when the elevator stopped moving. "Fuck it!" He skipped down into the elevator just in time to see Oliver dashing down the hall. He ran after him, turning the corner to see him run out of the building and across the street. Ant followed suit.
Oliver ducked down an alley. Ant had to stop to avoid a car as he tried to cross the street. Sirens were blaring from someplace nearby. Ant made another dash to get across and had to zigzag to avoid yet another potential collision. The headlights of a truck caught him across the eyes. "Fuck!" he yelled, blinking his eyes trying to focus. He made it across the street and dashed into the alley, limping slightly because of his knee. His feet began to slide, and he grabbed for the wall to steady and slow himself. "Fuck me," he whispered. The alley was coated in blood; rent bodies were tossed about as if rag dolls. He noticed movement at the other end. It was Oliver, fighting with two other figures. Ant skipped to the end of alley. As he appeared, the two attackers jumped back and up, clearly startled by Ant's sudden appearance.
They clung to the wall and hissed. Ant looked at them, but they were cloaked in shadows deeper than what the light sources in the area would provide. The two attackers climbed the wall and hopped over onto the roof of the building. Ant looked to Oliver. He was covered in lacerations that were pouring blood. He opened his mouth, as if to speak, but blood came gushing out.
The sirens were loud now. Oliver reached out to Ant, and Ant grabbed him; tried to support him. They both sunk to ground, both in shock.
"What the fuck happened?"
Oliver began to convulse. It was the only answer he could manage.
The alley flooded with light.
"Let him go!" Ant looked up. Several armed people were standing between him and lights. "This is the SMPD. Put that man down and step away, slowly."
Ant blinked, and then complied. The next few minutes whizzed by as if seconds. Ant barely realized what was happening as he was cuffed and read his Miranda rights. It just started to register when they locked him in the back of the police car.
Fuck me, they think I'm the serial killer.
Story by James M. Sullivan, Copyright 2008
Image by Rory Clark, Stopped Motion Photography, Copyright 2008