The drive should’ve taken 30 minutes, Smith gets us there in 15.
It’s a really small town, population around 600 people, a little place called Bruner. We rip through the center of town, right down Main St. at a much saner 85 m.p.h. On the highway we cruised in the three digit area of the speedometer.
Bruner is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else. So for the life of me I can’t figure out how they didn’t know what was happening right beneath their own noses. Two story large homes sit at the edge of town. Perfectly picturesque, here is the little town you want to raise a family in. That is, if a crazy kidnapper wasn’t your neighbor.
We rode here, mostly in silence. There is a certain tension in the air, a dark and brooding energy radiating off of Smith. I’d bring up the fact that he froze in the cave if we didn’t already have back-up there. Perhaps someone should have ‘the talk’ with Smith. Everyone isn’t built to be on the Spook Squad.
It’s not about physical strength, but rather, mental fortitude. Everyone can’t handle seeing the bodies, cut up, burned, mutilated, and bloody. Sometimes even children.
I’ve been around the monsters and the smell of the evil that rots on their souls fills the air smelling of burning metal. I’ve seen things that even give me pause.
Not everyone can stare into the eyes of the darkness and not blink, and even the ones that can. We are forever changed. We don’t dream the nightmares, we live them, we investigate them, we pull them apart to find out what makes them tick. That takes a different kind of monster, but a monster none the less. It takes one to know one.
Smith’s phone rings as we break through the small residential district, out to the farmlands, nothing but miles and miles of hay surround us. Growing tall from the earth, it won’t be ready to harvest until October, after the fall equinox. I only know so much about hay because I’ve seen a witch burn miles of crops down around her. Hay is very combustible.
“Smith,” He answers.
“What do you mean you cannot search the premises?!” Smith rages.
He pauses listening.
“I will be there in five.” He hangs up.
“The barn is on private property. The sheriff of Bruner refuses to allow the agents on the grounds until we can produce a warrant to search the premises and the owner can be notified.” We begin to accelerate, getting closer to the 110 m.p.h. we did on the highway.
“Did they explain what’s at stake here?!” I can’t say I’m not equally upset. There are lives on the line, the lives of small children! I can’t believe we’re really getting stopped by red tape and bureaucratic cock wars.
“This might get bad quickly, I don’t want you to get wrapped up in this. Stay in the truck.”
“Like hell Smith.” I whisper determined not to be left behind.
We speed past miles and miles of hay fields, finally slowing down at a little gravel country road. There’s no name only a number hand painted on a white sign, LOT #43271 and mailbox beside it. The SUV lumbers down the road, hitting pothole after pothole and even with the seatbelt on I’m getting bounced around, Smith refuses to slow down, I don’t ask him to.
Off in the distance I can see the top of a large white house, and the large barn beside it. We pull into a bit of cleared land, two small town police cars, one ambulance and two FBI standard issue black sedans sit parked. The two police cars are turned, blocking the FBI vehicles from pulling further in. The ambulance pulled to the side.
Four men, two from the sheriff’s department and two from the FBI, stand in a circle talking. The other two agents stand beside their car looking towards the barn. All of them in black suits, they stick out like sore thumbs in a place like this.
The EMTs must have decided to stay in their truck sensing the powder keg that’s about to explode.
Smith comes to a grinding halt, barely stopping before plowing into the sedans. He throws the SUV in park and gets out. I hurry to follow him out into the sun, you couldn’t pay me to miss this.
The Sheriff is an older man, early fifties I’d guess. A bit of a belly, gray mustache, no beard, a honest to god cowboy hat on his head and a six shooter at his waist. The man is a walking cliché.
“What seems to be the problem here?” Smith demands with purpose and authority. He stops less than a couple feet from the sheriff.
“The problem is that you and your people…” The sheriff vaguely points around at all of us, his voice holding a hint of that country twang.
“Your people came busting in Ms. Mary’s door already. I hear you got little Harold but won’t let his Ma go see him. Now I’m not here to step on any toes, I just want to make sure things are done by the book, due process and all….”
“The man has kidnapped twenty children!” I snap.
“Thompson,” Smith whispers low admonishingly.
The sheriff starts again. “Now as I’ve explained to your men here. If you could just produce a….”
Before I can blink Smith cold cocks the sheriff. The man didn’t stand a chance and his body folds into itself as he falls to the ground, his little cowboy hat flying off into the sunset. Smith smoothly pulls his sidearm and turns pointing it at the deputy.
“We are here to search the premises. Perhaps these men did not explain the gravity of the situation. But let me be clear here and now, you try to stop me, or hinder me at all - I will shoot you. They will not find your body.”
The deputy takes a step back and Smith holsters his weapon. He turns to look at the two FBI agents.
“Stay here, work on getting that search warrant.” Smith continues his march towards the barn, I follow behind him quickly.
“You aren’t an agent.” I whisper. No agent would do that, not one I’ve ever heard of or met. The Bureau doesn’t have wild cards or rogues. The FBI doesn’t employ men and women that go off-books. They don’t break the rules, disregard protocol. Smith is an anomaly. What just happened only serves to confirm my original thought about him, he’s not Bureau. Yet I don’t peg him for a spook either.
He doesn’t respond, I didn’t really expect him to. Smith isn’t the most forth coming individual I ever met in my life.
The barn has seen better days, weather-worn wood planks, gray and old. It looks creepy even in the shinning sun. There’s a padlock on the barn door, shiny and new. Yeah that doesn’t belong here. In the movies I’m sure they’d show Smith pulling out his gun, shooting the lock. Nope, doesn’t work, at least not a handgun, anything less than a twelve-gauge up close isn’t taking the lock off and even then, you’re likely to get hurt from the shrapnel flying back from the destroyed lock.
I pick up a sent, it’s thick in the air, almost smelling of spice.
“Do you smell that?” I whisper, fear in my voice. Something isn’t right about this place. Something here is grating against my aura.
There’s a discourse of energy. No, something isn’t right about the place at all.
He stands back and kicks the door right below the latch. The lock is new, the door is not. A few good kicks and the wood splinters away from the bolts in the latch.
“Stand back.” Smith orders pulling his weapon.
The door creaks open, and the smell of moth balls and spices assaults my senses, making my head light with its pungent aroma.
The sunlight shines in and my eyes see, but my mind refuses to accept.
“My dear sweet Jesus,” I whisper.
The children are here, raised up on small crucifixes. Arms lashed to the crosses with rope, cloths wrapping around their mid-section. Wings of pure white spread out behind each of them. Every one of them painfully thin. Their heads hanging down as they carry the weight of their captor’s sins.
I turn yelling, “get the EMTs now!”
I rush forward and start checking them, they’re still alive, they’re still alive. All is not lost, I keep reminding myself.
“Stay here, I’m going to check the back.” Smith orders walking down an isle of crucified children.
The rafters have so many dried herbs tied to them, the air is stifling in here. He did it to mask the smell, the heat of August isn’t helping. All things considered, it’s very clean, the dirt floors covered with fresh straw.
But nothing can make this better. Nothing can mitigate the horror of these small children hanging on crosses. I can’t fathom a mind that could do such a thing. I don’t want to be able to understand this. I don’t want to be able to figure out why Harold Greenwich did this. But I know I have to, I must, or nothing is learned.
I’m fearful of taking the children down without the EMTs okay.
“Hey, hey,” I try to rouse one of the small boys. His small frame shows starkly beneath his skin. Ribcage pressed against his flesh. Small frail arms and legs, his head seems disproportionate. Striking blond hair on his head.
I reach up trying to find a pulse in his neck. It’s there, but faint and thready.
The EMTs finally rush up, escorted by the other agents that were too chicken-shit to disobey protocol.
I can see the shock spread on their faces as they finally reconcile what they are seeing.
“Smith went to check out the back. Stay with them, call this in, we need more people here!”
I rush down the isle of crucified children to go find Smith. Occasionally I hear a low moan, light and weak. It gives me hope that not all is lost. That these children can be saved.
There are two empty crosses at the back, the ones for Simon and Sarah, he’s already posted them into the ground. The little crosses have a foot shelf so they could stand and relieve the pressure on their arms as he starved them to death.
A certain detachment is needed when faced with this… this kind of evil, pure evil. I shake myself gently, promising myself that I can have a breakdown later.
A trap door sits open, a light coming up from below. I steady my heart and step softly down the wood stairs leading into the basement.
Smith stands in the center of the small room looking around at the walls. Words, painted in red, scriptures from the bible.
HE UNLEASHED UPON THEM HIS HOT ANGER, HIS WRATH, INDIGNATION AND HOSTILITY. FROM THE HEAVENS AND FROM THE HELLS LEGIONS OF WARRIOR ANGELS WERE SET UPON THEM AND THEY WOULD BE KNOWN AS THE WRATH OF GOD.
It’s painted again and again and again, covering the wood plank walls that hold back the earth. I hope that it’s just paint, I pray it isn’t blood to add on to the atrocities already committed here. There’s a table to my left with a sowing machine, covered in white feathers. He makes the wings himself, the last two pair sit unfinished. A metal rack to my right, filled with bottles, pills filling them each.
“Hey Smith.” I speak softly not wanting to startle him. The man has a firm grip on his gun.
“No matter what I do.” He shakes his head slowly. I get the feeling he isn’t really talking to me.
“Let’s just go back upstairs go out the back, get some fresh air.” I take a small step towards him.
He turns, looking at me sharply and my heart bottoms out, there is a wildness in his eyes. What is this man doing in the field?
“Hey, hey.” I hold up my hands, showing I’m unarmed and not a threat. Smith stares at my palms strangely. I know they aren’t glowing, that my runes stay hidden.
His gray eyes shift back to me, as if he’s searching for something within the windows to my soul.
“We would never win.”
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