This is the submitted, unpolished, version of the story I wrote for the first round of the Flash Fiction Challenge. This particular story placed 5th in my group (11) for this round, and as this is the first time I’ve attempted anything like this, I am pretty chuffed about it.
Location: A Mausoleum
Synopsis: Today marks the third day in a row that someone has defaced the mausoleum at Shady Hill Cemetery. Investigators are stumped about what is motivating the vandal and must enlist the help of a classics expert, Jillian, to get the answers they seek.
The sun was breaking through the trees as Jillian arrived to the scene. The thermometer in the car read a sizzling 101°F. The sound of singing in the church swelled in the dense air, and the last remaining stragglers at the scene were walking towards the church. Jillian couldn’t remember a time she had seen this many cars in one place. Fear was a funny thing.
Jillian called out to Rupert. The detective had called her down to help with the investigation. She could hardly figure out why they would need a classical literature major at a crime scene, but she had known Rupert since they were children and could hardly say no.
“Jill!” Rupert called out.
He walked quickly and carefully, passing the remaining evidence markers to get to the police tape surrounding the crime scene.
“Welcome to Shady Hill Cemetery,” he smiled as he lifted the tape to let her in.
There was nothing shady or hilly about this particular cemetery, Jillian mused. There were no trees within the perimeter, and aside from the gravestones, the only shadow that was significantly cast was that of the large, white mausoleum in the centre. All walking paths met there – making it the crossroads of the graveyard.
The crypt was notable only in its decadence in an otherwise plain town. Concrete slabs were its foundation, but the remaining building – shaped like an old Roman house with an entryway surrounded by two columns – was ivory and marble. At a time, it likely shone brightly, but decades had diminished it to a lacklustre grey. The top was adorned with a dome and a frieze below that depicted both roman numerals and the story of man’s fall from grace.
“Thank you,” Jillian said, gawking at the beautiful ivory columns in front of her.
“I’ve brought the case file with me. It’s just inside,” Rupert said, as he widened his stride over the stone steps into the crypt. “Please be careful here.”
As Jillian looked down, she saw glistening red on the grass and steps. Blood, she gagged. That was when she could smell it – the stench of death and faeces. The colour left her face and she tried to keep her caramel latte down, as she widened her step to avoid touching the remains of the carnage.
When she got into the mausoleum, she closed the door and steadied herself. Lights on all four ends of the structure were set up and angled onto the large, rectangular stone coffin in the middle. The file and its contents were sitting atop the coffin.
“Sorry about that,” Rupert said. “I had forgotten you probably don’t see much in the way of blood.”
“Yeah, not really… Is there anything else like that in your evidence?” she asked, scared to hear the answer.
“No,” he said.
Jillian breathed a sigh of relief.
“I suppose you want to know why I brought you here,” Rupert began, as he motioned her to the middle.
“You could say that,” she smiled, regaining her composure.
“This is the third morning in a row that the church minister has called. On the first day, we found writing on the ivory columns. Yesterday, a scarecrow hanging from the door, and today… a dog had been brutalised,” he scowled in disgust. “Until today, we just thought it was a prankster.”
“But not now,” Jillian said.
“We set up a hidden camera yesterday. We have video evidence from this morning’s attack, but because we have no other physical evidence for the past two days, we need to get a confession. I need to understand motive… You know Hebrew, don’t you?”
Jillian smiled, “I certainly do.”
“The first day the writing on the columns was in Hebrew. Care to decipher?”
Jillian nodded and leaned in to look at all of the pictures. She found all of the images of the columns and separated them as if they were puzzle pieces. With the 14 images there, she had reconstructed the image of the columns and front door as it appeared outside. One by one, she looked at the words on the images, ignoring all else.
They were scrawled in flowing symbols with red marker. The words were written in large letters so as to make it noticeable from a great distance. A majority were illegible, but the ones she could find had strong meaning. They were in no particular order. She took a step back and took in the overall image before her. The red writing contrasted the white columns, but they nearly hid the most distinct thing. There was red along the frame of the door.
“That’s not there when I entered,” Jillian said pointing at the red.
“We had to take it down. There are a lot of fanatics here, and they immediately assumed a plague was going to consume the town… What do the words say, Jill?”
“Just utter nonsense, mostly, but the words love, loathe, lost and hope were in there,” she said.
“ Okay. What does that mean?”
“I don’t think it means anything. I think it was the door… Where are the scarecrow images?”
“Here,” Rupert said, pointing to them. Sorting through she found nothing remarkable – just a scarecrow on a wooden post. Finally, she found a photo taken of a man encased in shadow hanging from a cross.
“What do you mean the door?” he asked.
“The columns were vandalised to bring attention to the door – to the prospect that wrath was coming.”
“But what does the dog have to do with it?”
“What can you tell me about the dog?” she asked.
“He was a black Labrador. Beautiful, really. Covered in blood. His eyes had been removed and replaced with red marbles. He almost looked evil.”
“A hellhound?” she asked.
“There’s your answer,” Jillian opened the door to the mausoleum and set her gaze on the church directly facing her from across the road. “God will judge you.”
“And hell is coming,” Rupert groaned.