By Amanda Pizzolatto (Rated PG)
The men had only sat down when a blue light outside the window caught their attention. They rose to see what it was, but it grew brighter, causing them to cover their eyes. It grew so bright that it filled the whole room. After a minute, the blue light faded away, and there was nothing but skeletons sitting down to the meeting.
* * * *
“David! David! Come quick!” The redheaded young man glanced up from his newspaper at the blond boy waving at him. Sighing, he rolled up the newspaper and walked over to the boy.
“What is it, Terence?”
“The sheriff wants to speak to you right away! It’s urgent!”
David blinked. “How urgent?”
“‘The future of the town is at stake’ kind of urgent! Or, well, at least, that’s what he told me to tell you.”
David nodded. “Alright, let’s go.” The boy dashed off, David walking briskly behind, his long strides keeping up with Terence’s run quite easily. A good thing too as they had to maneuver around both horse-drawn carriages and the new automobiles as they crossed a couple of streets. They reached police headquarters fairly quickly, and David was greeted with a somber sorrow that seemed to fill the room like a fog, with a drizzle of uncertainty. “Sheriff, what’s going on?”
“Close the door please, David.” David raised an eyebrow at the request and glanced at Terrence for an explanation. Terence merely shrugged and dashed out the door. David huffed but did as he was asked. “You might want to take a seat.” David’s other eyebrow went up slightly and he sat next to the deputies. This didn’t sound good.
“So, why the secrecy, Sheriff?”
Sheriff Anderson sighed. “Because the entire city council has disappeared, so to speak, and we’re at a loss. I know you’re supposed to be on a vacation of sorts, detective, but we really need your expertise.”
David’s eyes widened. “What? ‘So to speak’?”
The sheriff gritted his teeth. “There were skeletons sitting in their places, but . . .”
“But you have reason to believe that those skeletons are not the city council.”
The sheriff nodded. “Precisely, and that’s where you come in. We want to keep this as quiet as we can. Your friends may know about this, but no one else.”
David nodded. “Understood. Do the families know about it?”
One of the deputies shook his head. “No, we’ve told them that they had to prolong the meeting and would call when they were done.”
“Is the content of the meeting confidential?”
“Yes, it is; not even I know what the meeting was about, but I can tell you it is important, apparently so important that someone had to kidnap them from going any further with the meeting,” replied the sheriff.
“Which means that maybe at least one other person knows the content of the meeting. If the kidnappers don’t, then it’s not about the content of that meeting, it would be something else.”
“Of course, but we don’t know yet, it only happened last night, whatever it was. It’s, well, maybe it would be best to show you. The crime scene hasn’t been touched yet as we only found it this morning. Why don’t you meet us at the wharf at ten o’clock tonight? You can bring your friends with you, but make sure no one follows you and that no one else knows of this. I’d rather tell the families myself, and if they know you’re on the case, they won’t panic. That’s the last thing I need.”
David nodded as he rose from his seat. “Sounds fine by me, I’ll see you at the wharf at ten.”
The sheriff shook his hand, “Thank you, David, if there’s anyone who can get to the bottom of this without anyone knowing, it’s you.”
“I’ll do what I can, but I can’t guarantee anything.”
The sheriff nodded, “I understand, the best is all I ask of you. See you tonight at ten.”
“Right, see you.” He tipped his hat to the sheriff and the deputies before leaving the office. He walked home deep in thought. What exactly had happened? And what was so important about this meeting in particular? Another thought came to mind. Had anyone been released from jail who held a grudge against any of the council members? All of them had been a juror at one time or another, one of the requirements of being on the city council. He figured that at least he had something to do while he waited for ten to come around, that and he had to gather his friends.
David wasn’t sure how the day went by for him – it didn’t quite drag, but it didn’t seem to fly either. David and two of his closest friends, Trin Thompson and Doctor James Calvin, had arrived a couple minutes before ten. Right at ten, the final members of their party showed up – Charles Harris, a retired sea captain, followed by the sheriff and his two top deputies.
The sheriff shook hands with David. “David, glad you’re here. Are you sure that no one else knows, or that no one followed you tonight?”
David nodded. “Pretty sure. I asked Captain Harris to follow us at a distance to be on the safe side, he didn’t see anything or anyone out of the ordinary.”
The Captain tipped his hat. “That’s right, and I stayed back for a few minutes several times to be double sure.” He shook his head. “No one was following.”
The sheriff nodded. “Good, and I’m glad to have you on board this investigation, Captain, I’m sure David needs every hand he can get. I would have put my own men on this case to help, but if anyone saw them, suspicions would arise and become the talk of the papers.”
“Well, you can be sure we’ll help however we can,” stated a middle-aged man with graying hair.
“Ah, thank you, Doctor Calvin. Glad to know that David will have your expertise at hand. And Trin Thomspson, I bet this investigation will go faster with your ability to ask the right questions.” The blonde smiled warmly as the sheriff shook her hand.
“Thank you, Sheriff, I certainly hope so.”
“Alright, well, let’s go to the crime scene, the faster we get this done, the sooner you can get to work.”
David nodded, “Right, then let’s go.” The sheriff and the deputies led the way, taking the less-used paths to get to the warehouse that was used as a secret meeting place by the committee. David’s mouth dropped open when they entered the room. He could certainly see why the sheriff wanted this to keep quiet. Twelve skeletons sat around the long table with the meeting minutes open in front of each one, each one looking as if it was taking notes.
“We went ahead and checked for fingerprints, footprints, anything, but we’ve found nothing except for the council’s prints. It’s like they just up and vanished, leaving the skeletons here as a joke. I know we’ve been over this room multiple times, but I feel like we’re missing something, some important clue that would explain everything.”
“Though, you could say that the fact that they stepped over to the window but didn’t come back to the seats is curious,” muttered one of the deputies. Everyone blinked in surprise at the statement.
“Why, that’s a perfect place to start! Which window were they standing at?” The twins led them to the window. “So, they come here to look at something, something so weird that they all had to rise and see. And then . . . were there any footprints outside?” The twins shook their heads.
“Nothing,” stated one.
“Not even a mouse,” replied the other. David rubbed his chin, what had they seen? And what happened after that? As a matter of fact, where had the skeletons come from? Speaking of skeletons, that might be a clue as to who is behind all of this.
“Doctor, could you check those skeletons, please? Trin, Captain, could you help me with this?” David placed a briefcase on the table.
“So, are you going to tell us what’s in there?” asked the Captain as he walked to the table to stand next to David.
“Actually, I’m going to show you.” He opened it, and took out several files. “These are the criminals who were sent to jail when at least one of the council members was on the jury. But these three in particular are important, as all three were released just a few days ago due to good behavior.”
“Carol Santonio, Bob Jones, and Antonio Conti,” the sheriff read the list.
“Say, don’t those three have a bone to pick with you as well, David?” asked the Captain.
“Captain, really,” berated Calvin, taking a glance up from his work.
“What? It’s true!”
“I’m afraid it is, which means I could be next on his list.”
David nodded, “It’s not Carol Santonio; this isn’t her style, and she would have sent you a warning yesterday that it was going to happen.”
“So, Antonio Conti?”
“No, he’s more of a mob boss; he’s not ready yet to commit any crimes as he’s having to build up from the ground.”
“Which means Bob Jones is the only possible answer!” noted Trin.
The sheriff smacked his forehead. “Of course! How could we miss that? Man, he’s been in prison for so long now I had thought he wouldn’t have picked up his criminal activity this quickly. But I’m glad you brought his file along.”
“What do you mean by that?” asked one of the deputies.
Trin pointed to the information on the criminal, “His nickname is Bones because he likes to surround himself with skeletons, he’s a scientist and an engineer, and he’s been trying to build a machine that would help him with his killing!”
“Well, then he must have it, though it is a weird one.”
“What do you mean, Doctor?”
“Well, according to these skeletons, Councilman Peters has shrunk, Councilman Etson has all of his teeth, and Councilman Queens has changed gender. I think that was meant to be a joke, a not so funny one, if you ask me.”
“Which would mean, what exactly?” asked Harris.
“If we were going to check the cemeteries, we’re going to find a few graves empty.”
David snapped his fingers. “Which could also mean that Bones hasn’t killed them yet. He would have had to take them, kill them, melt off their skin, and take a couple parts to keep as trophies before returning them as skeletons. There must be something else he has in mind. Hmm . . . sheriff, may I look at the minutes? He might be trying to stop one of the new motions.”
The sheriff winced and sucked in a breath. “Um, I’m not sure about that. I’m not authorized to give clearance. Though, speaking of, we should remove these. Gary, Jerry, help me gather up the minutes, will ya?”
The twins nodded and replied in perfect unison. “Right boss.” The two each grabbed four and stacked them on top of the four the sheriff grabbed.
“Thanks,” said the sheriff. “ I think we should get these to the safe in my office, they’ll be safer there. You can stay here a little longer, if you’d like, and go over the crime scene again. Maybe find something we overlooked?”
David shrugged. “I think we will look over it again, but I don’t think you missed anything, especially only having a day to look it over. I will let you know if we do find anything else.”
The sheriff nodded. “Thanks, David, for everything. Why don’t we meet at my office for lunch tomorrow and discuss the particulars?”
“Sounds good with me. See you tomorrow then!”
“See you, and thanks again!” The sheriff and his deputies walked out, leaving the quartet to examine the crime scene once again.
When David made his way to the sheriff’s office the next day, he didn’t have anything to add to what was found by the police at the crime scene, but he did have an idea he wanted to go over with the sheriff before checking it out. However, there was a crowd of people standing in front of the sheriff’s office, David noticed with alarm that it was the press being held back by a squad. Being a usual, David was admitted without question, and rushed to the sheriff’s office.
“Sheriff, what happened?” exclaimed David as he burst through the doors, but paused with alarm at what he saw. Sitting in the sheriff’s chair was a grinning skeleton.