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Voices (Whisper Trilogy Book 3)


  VOICES

  THE WHISPER TRILOGY: PART III

  Michael Bray

  Voices by Michael Bray

  First published in 2015 by

  Horrific Tales Publishing

  http://www.horrifictales.co.uk

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  Copyright © 2014 Michael Bray

  http://www.michaelbrayauthor.com

  The moral right of Michael Bray to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

  eBook Edition

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organisations, places and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

  VOICES

  Michael Bray

  “What would your good do if evil didn’t exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows disappeared?”

  — Mikhail Bulgakov

  “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it—always.”

  — Mahatma Gandhi

  PART ONE:

  AFTERMATH

  CHAPTER 1

  The tan Mercedes jostled down the rutted dirt road leading to the Hope House hotel, driving through a steady drizzle which had been falling all morning. A thick mist hung in the air, held in place by the overhanging tree canopy which only added to the gloom. Detective Alex Petrov squinted through the windshield, wishing away the headache that had been present since he’d woken up. At thirty-seven years old, the Russian born Californian was already missing the warmth of the sun. Standing an imposing six feet three inches tall, with chiseled features, blond hair and piercing blue eyes, he was one of the best, or at least, that’s what he’d been told prior to being sent to work the Oakwell massacre case. He slowed as he reached the checkpoint, manned by an officer in a rain poncho who looked just as miserable as Petrov felt. Recognizing the detective, the officer waved him through, and he made his way into the hotel car park. Huge lighting rigs had been erected, pushing back the gloom of the day and casting the hotel in an ugly artificial spotlight. His partner, Warren, stood under the entrance awning, shuffling his feet as he smoked. Ten years older than Petrov and showing every one of the strains and stresses of an overworked detective, Warren Bush didn’t look at all happy. Short and balding with dark eyes and skin that was losing the battle against the aging process, he was an acquired taste, and wasn’t very well liked outside those he classed as his friends. Petrov brought the Mercedes to a stop, half wishing he had thought to bring a coat. He exited the car, expensive Italian shoes ruined by the mud as he strode toward the hotel.

  “This better be good, Warren,” he said, joining his partner under the covered entrance.

  “I wouldn’t have called you if it wasn’t. Trust me; I don’t like this place any more than you do.”

  Petrov nodded. He felt it too. There was a unique atmosphere here. An ominous sense of foreboding which he suspected was fueled by the stories that surrounded it.

  “Sooner we crack this, the sooner we can get the hell out of here. Believe me, I miss the sun.”

  “Tell me about it. It’s rained pretty much every fucking day since we came here. I don’t know why they had to bring us in. This isn’t our business. Local law enforcement should be handling their own shit,” Warren grumbled.

  “There is no local law enforcement. Closed down. This town is on its last legs. The military are moving in just as soon as we’re done,” Petrov said, shoving his hands in his pockets.

  “The military? Why the hell would they get involved in this mess?”

  “They have their feathers ruffled. Uncle Sam is worried about what happened here.”

  “Some guy went apeshit. Seems pretty cut and dried to me.”

  “You think I don’t know that? For all I know, one of the people involved could be on the terrorist watch list. Either way, we have no choice. They’ve already given us the hurry up.”

  Warren sighed and pulled his jacket closer around his body. “This is a bullshit case, Alex. Who the fuck did we piss off to be sent out here?”

  “Didn’t you hear? It’s a reward for our hard work. Apparently we’re the best.”

  Warren snorted, then took a last drag on his cigarette and tossed it out into the rain. “Yeah, well, I wouldn’t expect to be out of here anytime soon. We found something new. You need to take a look at it.”

  “Oh yeah?”

  “Yeah. Come on, I’ll show you.”

  Warren led the way into the hotel. Lights blazed as the two detectives walked through the deserted foyer. For the last few weeks, the place had been a hive of activity as photographs were taken and evidence searched for and catalogued. Now, they were the only two left on site.

  “The cleanup guys were up here last night finishing off before the military come in next week to close the place up. They found something we missed.”

  Warren ducked under the yellow police tape and pulled open the steel door in the central core of the hotel. Within stood the broken remains of Hope House. Intended by Henry Marshall as some kind of morbid tribute, it had been encased by the hotel, left in its own self-contained concrete cell. Most of the structure had been destroyed in the fire, and only three of the outer walls and the staircase remained. Blackened wood littered the site, and a huge roof beam had half crushed the stairs. As had been the case outside, lighting rigs had been set up to illuminate the tableau. Petrov had only seen it once during the initial investigation of the murder scene, and liked it even less now.

  “What’s with the lights?” Petrov asked, eying the spotlights set into the roof of the chamber.

  “Powers out in here. Some kind of surge fried the electrics.”

  “Yeah?”

  “Yeah. One of the witnesses said there was a white flash just before Marshall was taken into custody. I’m guessing someone fucked up with the wiring.”

  Petrov grunted and followed Warren through the remains, old glass and wood crunching underfoot as they picked their way through the debris. There was no real way of guessing the previous layout. All Petrov could recognize, apart from the staircase, were the stone fireplace in what used to be the living room and the doorframes which led to other equally fire-damaged locations.

  “Through here,” Warren said, leading them into the kitchen. This room at least still bore a few recognizable features: pipes, a cracked porcelain sink and the frame of the rear door which would, at one point, have looked out over Oakwell forest but now had only a concrete wall of the house’s tomb beyond it.

  “There’s nothing left here, Warren. We already searched the place,” Petrov said irritably.

  “Hang on, just bear with me.”

  Warren led Petrov over to one of the remaining walls and the hollow within. At one time it had been the kitchen pantry. Now, however, it was empty, its frame blackened with soot. Two of the three shelves inside were missing.

  “Check it out,” Warren said, stepping aside.

  Petrov looked, taking everything in, allowing his brain to process the information.

  “How the hell did we miss this?”

  “Just look at the fucking place,” Warren replied. “It
looks like a damn bomb went off. Besides, the house wasn’t ever our focus. It was only by chance that our cleanup guys stumbled upon it. It looks like even the people who used to live here didn’t know about it. The room was full of junk from the previous tenants. If it wasn’t for our guys clearing it out and kicking up the old carpet when we were trying to fix the electrics, we would never have known about it. Lucky break I guess.”

  Petrov nodded. On the ground inside the pantry was a wooden hatch with a circular brass ring pull.

  “You’re sure the previous owners didn’t know about this?”

  “No, this room was full of crap, most of it wasn’t even theirs. You know how it is, all the shit you never get around to unpacking. Most of it was from before.”

  “Yeah, I know what you mean,” Petrov mumbled, distracted by the hatch set into the floor. He crouched and pulled it open, dust and cold air drifting out toward him. Petrov leaned closer. Below the door was a chamber with a rickety looking ladder leading below.

  “Give me a torch or something.”

  “I don’t have one.”

  “Well hand me your lighter then,” Petrov snapped as he got down on all fours. Warren handed him a purple Bic disposable, and Petrov ducked his head and arm into the hole before flicking the lighter on. Although it barely illuminated anything, he could see there was a corridor cut into the foundations beneath the house. At first, he thought it was some kind of basement, but soon realized that it curved away from the foundations of the building. Something else caught Petrov’s attention; a smell that in his line of work he was all too familiar with. It was the slightly sweet, putrid stench of death.

  “Who else knows about this place?” Petrov asked, crawling back from the hatch.

  “CSI are on their way. Apart from that, just you.”

  “What about the army?”

  “No.” Warren shook his head as he said it. “Like I said, I only called you.”

  “Good,” Petrov said, walking toward the exit.

  “Where the hell are you going?”

  “To get a torch out of my car.”

  “You ain’t going down there are you?” Warren said as he hurried after him.

  “Damn right I am.”

  “Come on, Alex, you don’t know what’s down there. Let’s just wait for crime scene to get here, okay?”

  Petrov was already in the hotel foyer. He paused by the door, turning back to his partner as thunderous rain continued to fall. “I’m just going to take a look. Once crime scene get here, the military will get wind of it and we won’t ever find out what’s underneath the hotel.”

  “Why does it matter? We got our guy for this. What’s the point?”

  “Because something doesn’t add up. We know what Henry Marshall did, but we don’t know why. That bothers me.”

  “Let it go. Let’s get out of this shithole town.”

  “You know that’s not my way, Warren. It’s only gonna eat at me otherwise.”

  “Alright, if that’s what you want,” Warren said, pulling out his cigarettes. “But for the record, I think you’re a crazy son of a bitch. We already closed the case. We don’t need to be doing this.”

  “Come on, you know me well enough by now. I’m curious,” Petrov said, grinning. “Let’s get this done, okay?”

  “Whatever, let’s just get this over with and get the hell out of here. This place gives me the creeps. Do I have time for a quick smoke?”

  “No, Warren. Come on, let’s do this.”

  “Goddamn it, Alex, why always me?” Warren grumbled as he put his cigarettes back into his pocket.

  II

  Torch in hand, Petrov stood over the hatch. He peered into the darkness below and wondered if Warren was right, that the best course of action would be to wait for the crime scene investigators to arrive. Even as he considered this, he knew he would never do it. He was too curious; too interested in discovering what had happened. He sat on the floor, his legs hanging over into the void. He eyed the ladder. Old rotten wood, rusty nails holding the rungs together, equally rusted hinges pinning it to the wall.

  Warren followed his eyeline. “I wouldn’t trust that thing to hold your weight.”

  “Yeah, I was just thinking the same thing.”

  “Want me to see if I can call one of the guys? See if we can get a ladder out here?”

  “There’s no time. I need to get in there and check it out. Just stay close and keep your eyes and ears open.”

  “There’s nobody else here. Who are you expecting to find down there?” Warren asked. He had been trying to lighten the mood, but Petrov was too tense and too mentally in the zone to acknowledge it.

  “Just keep your eyes open,” he said, slipping the torch into his jacket pocket.

  With nothing else left to say or do, Petrov lowered himself over the edge, testing the strength of the ladder’s rungs. Although they groaned in protest, they held his weight.

  “Okay, I’m heading down. Keep a look out for the crime scene guys. If they get here before I’m out, don’t be afraid to yell.”

  “Fuck it, just do what you gotta do,” Warren muttered with an exasperated sigh. He was more than used to Petrov bending the rules when he could sense a potential new lead. Hoping that the light, fuzzy feeling in his gut was just the vibe being given off by the house, he resigned himself to being a spectator, for the time being at least.

  Petrov lowered himself down, taking each rung on the ladder carefully. He was desperately trying to concentrate on what he was doing while ignoring the idiocy of his actions at the same time. As his head dipped below floor level, he was enveloped in a cold shroud of air. The lights from above ground barely penetrated the darkness, and until he could reach the floor and take out his torch, he was entombed in pitch black. His every sense was alive, body tense, ears straining for the slightest sound. From floor level, the drop had appeared to be no more than eight feet, ten at most. Now, as he made his way deeper, he started to think his judgment may have been wrong. The small square of light over which his partner was peering seemed impossibly far away, and it took all of his will to continue his descent.

  “You okay down there?” Warren shouted, the words echoing off the walls.

  I’m fine.

  That was what Petrov had intended to say as the rung of the ladder snapped under his weight. Gravity dragged him down, plunging him toward the ground as his stomach traveled in the opposite direction, feeling as if it were trying to leap out of his throat. He landed hard on the dirt floor, surrounded by broken pieces of the rotten ladder rung.

  “Are you hurt?” Warren said as Petrov got to his feet, brushing dust and cobwebs from his clothes. He glanced up the shaft at his partner’s smirking face.

  “I’m alright, but I changed my mind about that ladder. See if you can get a hold of one so I don’t break my neck when I need to come back up.”

  “Where the hell do you expect me to find a ladder?”

  “There’s a tow rope in my car. Grab that.”

  “You coming up now?”

  “Soon. I just want to take a quick look around down here first.”

  “Alright, just don’t do anything stupid.”

  “I’ll be fine. Just go grab that rope.”

  Warren raised a hand in acknowledgement and disappeared, leaving Petrov alone. Without anyone nearby, the overwhelming silence was harder to ignore, as was the crushing psychological pressure of the weight of the hotel above him. He took the torch out of his jacket and switched it on, wishing the beam was bigger so it would penetrate deeper as he swept it over the chamber. It was roughly square, and looked to have been cut directly into the earth. Cobwebs hung from ancient beams which had been set at regular intervals within the space, and to Petrov’s reckoning, barely looked up to the task of keeping the roof from collapsing. He inched into the darkness, swinging the torch beam from left to right as he went, unable to shake the overwhelming feeling of being watched despite knowing he was alone. A doorway appeared in the wall, i
ts black maw refusing to betray any of its secrets to the torch’s light. He approached the opening, automatically drawing his weapon and holding it below the light so the two of them moved in unison as he made his way deeper into the chamber. He tried to mentally map the surface area of the house, and was sure his geography must be off, as it seemed that, rather than staying within the foundations of the building, he had taken a path away from them. Indeed, as he approached, he noted that the ground sloped downwards toward where the river would be. His every sense was alert and focused on the darkness. He inched along slowly, shuffling his feet as he approached the makeshift underground door. Images of wet crawling things, slick and sightless, burrowing through the walls flickered into his mind, and for a moment, he was sure he was going to run and scramble back up the broken ladder, as unsafe as it was. His training, however, asserted itself. He placed one foot in front of the other, aware of the thunder of blood pounding in his ears along with the wheezing of his own breathing. He directed the torch beam into the room, his eyes soaking up the information beyond, his mind struggling to process it.

  He heard Warren calling from the hatch, warning him that the crime scene investigators had arrived. The sound of his partner’s voice was different, distant, like it was coming from underwater. All of Petrov’s focus was on the contents of the room, which was cut into a rough circular shape. Large bricks formed the wall, and three doors were cut into the opposite side. In the center was an altar of some kind, a course stone table upon which stood a filthy, brass-framed mirror. Candles of various sizes lined the rear and sides of the altar’s surface, their melted bodies awaiting the light of flame to bring them to life again. Beside the mirror was some kind of object which Petrov couldn’t quite figure out. It looked like a domestic cat, or had been at some point; its withered, rotten body was displayed upright, standing on its hind legs. The wings of a blackbird had been stitched to the cat’s back, pinned in the open position as if it were about to take flight. In place of the cat’s head was one from a human; brown and dry, skin cracked, lips pulled back from yellow teeth, hair stringy and wispy. In the light of Petrov’s torch, the eye sockets were twin voids of absolute black, giving the illusion of something ancient staring in defiance at him for encroaching on its territory. Behind the macabre display, written on the wall in what looked like blood, was a statement, perhaps the philosophy of those who had created the room.

 
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