R.I. Peace. Interesting, nom de plume, I thought! The book I was reading had gotten to the juicy part. I was absorbed in a dark mystery, prowling through graveyards and haunted mansions to find ghosts, ghouls, vampires, werewolves and such the likes. My imagination was running wild, I was hunting bad guys and solving murders, mayhem and general good old bad guy stuff.
"Everyone gets a partner, so choose wisely". Chief Freud bellowed from inside his office, waking me from my reverie. I ditched the book, thinking that he must have read my mind.
Jozie Quinn and Minha Bhad were the only two women in the male dominated department of 20 souls. Two beautiful women in their own rights. Minha was as unkempt as Jozie was immaculately tailored. Minha's loose-fitting trousers and a man's long coat worn unbuttoned over an oversized shirt, made her look a bit like the long ago detective Columbo. Many a crook had mistaken her appearance for ineptness, they were all locked away, pity they never knew that she was just as shrewd as Columbo himself.
I like women who know their own minds. Jozie was one of the bravest private eyes in the company, she had taken down quite a few evil characters in her time, she may be younger than me by a few years, but damn, she was good at her job. Minha, on the other hand, scared the crap out of me, she was crazy as heck, stopped at just the precipice of anything legal and has been known to cross over from time to time to get the job done. Minha was always in trouble with the department. Yet everyone had a love, hate relationship with her work, messy and expensive as it could get.
I was not daunted by being partnered with a real lady, the gals usually can see subtle points that we guys might miss sometimes, I won't say that out loud to some of these other guys. They might think me soft, but I know better, so we will just leave it at that.
The chief came out of his office holding a folder in his hands.
"Axle and Jozie, I have a case for you two. Two petrified bodies were just found in the Haunted Park. The Horton's who live nearby says their attic is haunted. Go check if the two situations are connected".
We grabbed our coats, took the folder and headed for the door.
"Minha, could you step...". The chief swore as Minha was already moving towards the door.
She laughed loudly, ignored the chief and walked out grabbing her coat as she went. I Knew that she was trying to race us to the scene. Damned woman is such a wild card, so exasperating.
I am Detective P.I. Axle Maxim of the "Supernatural Natural Occurrences Bureau". We hunt for all manner of unusual happenings in the general world. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, we rarely leave Salem, Massadonia, so much crap happens here, we have no time to go anywhere else. There is rich history here, and many accounts of all types of activities, supernatural or otherwise.
Jozie and I drove out past Salem harbor, the city was really lovely this time of year. Stately old houses stood against the backdrop, as if admiring the clearness of the sky reflected in the water, a rather pleasant sight. We arrived at the park where the police had already cordoned off the area, curious folks were craning their necks to get a glimpse of the bodies.
Jozie and I showed our badges and were allowed to get a quick examination of the bodies before the coroner arrived. We tried our best to cooperate with the local authorities. Minha's car was parked a little way off, I sighed, knowing how recklessly she drove.
Having finished our preliminary assessment here, we headed over to the home of the Horton's a block away. Tiana Horton met us at the door, offered us tea, which we declined. We asked her a few questions and had her direct us to the attic. It was dark up there, the windows had been covered with black curtains, which I found curious.
"I'll let in some light, the bulb seems to be out". Jozie said, pulling the curtain aside.
My eyes were squinting really fast, adjusting to the dimness of the room. It was then that I saw the ghostly white cat lolling sleepily against the blueness of the sofa. For a moment I wondered if it was real.
It moved a bit, not making a sound. Grabbing my flashlight, I pointed it around the other sections of the room. There was Minha on the floor, looking a bit like the bodies outside, was she dead? Moving closer while keeping an eye on the strange looking cat, I looked at her eyes, they moved; startled, I jumped back.
Meanwhile, Jozie had her gun trained on the cat, it was a weird looking critter.
Suddenly, it moved. Only it no longer looked like a cat, but more like a woman, a 'catwoman', if you will. Jozie raised her weapon, the cat person/thing hissed and a sweet sickly smelling fluid splashed onto Jozie's face. She fell over, looking as petrified as Minha over in the corner. She had fired the gun which grazed the thing on the shoulder, the cat thing ran for the door, leaving drops of blood on the floor. So it bled! Was it alive or undead then?
I took a quick look at Jozie, only her eyes moved. I bolted after the thing. Downstairs, Jhon Horton met me at the bottom of the stairs, he held an old tome in his hands. He had just returned from the park he said.
"Did that thing ever spit on anybody that you know sir"? I asked him.
"I think it did spit on those two in the park, they had come here to rob the place. Next thing I know, something was chasing them out of the house, then I saw the news on the Telly".
"You may need this, there is a legend in it. If the 'Catness' spits on you, you have 48 hours to reverse the spell. The legend had started in this house many years ago when a young woman had been bitten by a rabid cat. No one knows for sure what really happened".
"I don't have time to read the book, how do I find a cure"?
"Unfortunately, there is only one tree that has leaves which you brew in a cup of tea during a full moon when Jupiter aligns with Mars". He shook his head, grimaced and shrugged as I stared at him dumbfounded.
"WTF. How would anyone know when that would be, and just where is this tree located". I shouted.
"According to the book, in the western section of the Shringa desert, and by the by, the horoscope lady says Jupiter aligns with Mars thirty hours from now"!
"Of course, why would it be easy"? I grabbed the book and headed out the door, shouting a frustrated thanks to Jhon. The hours were already counting down.
"Those bodies may not be dead, just keep them in the morgue for a day, trust me". I yelled to the officers as I ran by.
They scratched their various heads and chins while probably thinking me a crazy person.
The desert was two hours drive out of town, a vast expanse of open space, sand and nothingness. I should have checked on the gas before leaving the towns behind. I drove like the devil and all his demons were chasing me. I would look for the cat thing later, right now the priority was to make sure my people didn't die. Hopefully there would be time to save the other two as well, they had been there for almost 24 hours already.
I drove in total silence, needing to think. We had seen many curious and weird things over the years, but this one was crazy, although there was Spiderman, a spider bit him and look what happened. But that was fiction, this was real. One never really knows what this world is really hiding, the ghouls, catwomen and legends which come to life.
I reached the edge of the desert just as the car started to sputter and complain. A few feet further and it completely died. Angry at myself, I pummeled the steering wheel and cursed my stupidity at ignoring the obvious. Hopefully they can track the car in time to come find me. Thank the stars for modern technology. I shed my jacket and tie, rolled up my sleeves and prepared to battle with the sun and heat.
In the meantime, I needed to figure out the westerly direction of this blessed tree. I stared up into the sky, the day was fading fast. I felt lost and alone, truth to tell, I disliked working alone. Two heads are better than one, and two people could find this damned tree faster than one can.
Yet, the task needed to get done really fast, so I had better get to it. I shielded my face against the glimmering heat of the sun, already I was starting to sweat profusely. The car AC now a memory, I squared my shoulder and embarked on the long hot journey ahead of me.
Thinking on the expanse of time, the vastness of the universe and our infinitesimal existence in relation to time and space, and being engulfed in the desert's parched silence, I was nothing but another grain of sand in the wind.