Iron Angels – Snippet 25
“That depends,” she replied.
“You saw my face when you turned around, right?”
“I did,” Jasper said. “We need to clear the shed. What if the animal went in there — ”
“Animal, huh? More supernatural — ”
“Let’s discuss the particulars after we peek into the shed. That okay with you?”
“Lead the way,” Temple said. “Oh, and your back is covered in a wet substance, by the way. I don’t think it’s water.”
“Blood?” Jasper cracked the wooden shed’s door, shining the flashlight in. He saw nothing, but two blind corners remained uncleared. He’d poke his head in and out.
“No,” Temple said. “I wouldn’t describe the substance that way. Not red, but it resembles ectoplasmic whatever — you know, Ghostbusters, but with a pinkish hue.”
“What are you getting at?” Jasper paused before stealing a peek into the blind corners. His face crinkled as he imagined his backside covered in wet and sticky goo. The situation reminded him of the yearly blood borne pathogen training and admonishment the nurse at the field office used to give: If it’s wet or sticky and not yours, don’t touch it. He shivered. Hopefully the stuff didn’t seep through his clothes and touch his skin.
“My reaction by the way, was horror at what you slipped and slid around in almost as much as the creature we’re both trying real hard to not discuss.”
“Oh.” Jasper’s face warmed, but he wasn’t sure why. Should he be embarrassed if Temple admitted she too witnessed something out of the ordinary? “Tell me, what did the beast we encountered look like to you?”
Jasper heard no scurrying or rustling from within the shed, so an animal was likely out, but a person remained a possibility. He knelt, pulled the door open and poked both head and flashlight inside the shed for a second. He breathed in the scent of damp wood, like fallen trees in the woods after a rainstorm. Old saw dust, kicked this way and that, covered the floor. A wooden workbench covered with tools in varying states of disrepair ran from one blind corner to the other. A rusty old gas can and a spout were on the floor before the bench.
“Nothing inside except a bunch of junk and gardening tools.” He glanced at Temple, and stood. “So, describe the thing we’re not talking about? You never answered.”
Temple licked her lips. “A winged beast, something out of the Bible. A — a demon or devil of some kind, since you’re asking.”
“A what? I have no idea what you’re even talking about. Wait, don’t tell me, the beast sported a cloven hoof or two — ”
“Really?” Her head spun toward him and her dark eyes regained the fierceness he’d come to know and expect in the short time they’d known one another. “Mocking my opinion of what I witnessed? This is how you’re going to approach the incident? You asked me what I saw and I told you.”
“All right, I’m sorry, I’m tired.” He held up his hands. “That shit wasn’t real — I mean, how can a crimson haze attack anything?”
“Explain the substance all over your back. The goo is like something coating the floor of a butcher shop. And what if the goo is a harmful or toxic substance? I think we need to check behind the shed.” Temple pushed past Jasper, flicked on her flashlight and faced the back of the shed.
Temple’s chest heaved and the rate of her breathing increased, accompanied by a slight gasping sound. Her eyes widened with the same fear Jasper had seen seconds earlier.
“It’s — a person, though I’m not sure of anything beyond that,” she said.
Jasper swallowed involuntarily, and a moment of intense doubt and unease passed through him. “Like what we found near the animal control facility?”
“Sort of. You better take a look for yourself.”
Jasper took careful steps toward Temple, and upon reaching her spun and flicked up his flashlight.
A pile of pink and white with traces of red littered the small path behind the shed, some of the matter pressed against a weathered fence about five and half feet high. Only black existed behind the shed, and the yard on the other side of the fence was dark. No one could have observed the ruckus going on, but the wailing from a few minutes ago had drawn a crowd out front of the old man’s house.
“You think the body back here made the wailing sound?”
“I think so,” Temple said. “I’m going to get Vance over here for some samples.”
“But the wailing noise happened only minutes ago, how could anything — and I mean anything — do such a thorough job of turning a human into a pile of meat? It isn’t like we’re chasing some sort of living sausage grinder, for Christ’s sake.”
“What if we are?” Temple pulled on his shoulder. “Jasper, if this really is something out of the Old Testament… or Revelations…”
Jasper shrugged off her hand. “I’m taking a closer look. Call Vance if you like, but there’s got to be a natural explanation for this.”
He heard a click behind him and two seconds later Temple was speaking with Vance and pacing the backyard.
“What’s going on back there?” the old man yelled from the back door.
“Get back inside,” Jasper yelled.
“It’s my property, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, but there’s been a death of some sort and we’re going to need to seal off the yard. In fact, we may need to search the residence.”
“I’ll call the police. That’ll fix you feds. Damn G-men,” the old man said, his verbal remonstrations replete with a figurative shaking of a fist. The back door rattled as the old man attempted a slam.
Jasper frowned at the space behind the shed. It was quite small, perhaps a few feet across. How did such a large beast fit in such a tight space? The creature he’d laid eyes on was at least the size of a horse, but the form resembled that of a sinewy dragon — and Asian-style dragon, like what had materialized before him and his cop buddy, Pete, outside the Euclid Hotel. He didn’t believe in dragons, though. Even Komodo dragons were exotic to him, and this hadn’t been one of those. This dragon flew off or vanished or had been a simple trick of the light. He wished Pete were here now — why not call him, anyway? Just because Jasper was assigned to assist Temple didn’t mean he shouldn’t utilize all the available resources at his disposal.
He stepped back from the space and hit up Pete on his cell. The conversation was mercifully short. Pete refused, wanting nothing to do with the strange deaths and certainly didn’t want to come within a few blocks of the Euclid. He’d begged off responding to the accident scene, even though he’d been close by, and he’d take a lot of heat for that in the morning.
Jasper hung up, pressed the phone to his forehead and closed his eyes. He was stalling. Admitting he faced bizarre circumstances beyond his ken was difficult.
Jasper took a deep breath, and either he’d gotten used to the scent of rotten meat, or it’d dissipated. He approached the back of the shed and directed the flashlight’s beam over the pile of meat and bones and skin. Under the scrutiny of the flashlight, the pile cast a greasy sheen punctuated by a bone jutting from the meat here and there. Jasper’s cheeks involuntarily puffed and he swallowed down creeping bile.