5 - Orchard 7 - Orchard
Can't see anything, better take away that advantage from white dress too. He got behind the door, swinging his flashlight arm —without igniting the light— to catch anyone there, before he closed the door behind him. At least it didn't creak to a close, it was smooth slow swing. He didn't pull it to a full close, that'd be too loud. All right, now what? If she's here somewhere, she's seen you without a doubt. No use in being subtle.
He ignited his flashlight, whirled it around and scanned his surroundings for a white patch. He released his breath as he didn't find one and took another slower tour.
The barn stopped on a few meters to his right, as he spotted from outside already. Behind the door, in the corner, were some buckets and a crate. Stacked to the back were hay bales on its sides. He couldn't see the opposite corner yet.
Left from the door were some tools — pitchforks and shovels — stacked to a wooden barrier, an opening and another similar barrier with a ladder going up. The barrier closed off pens where livestock could have been, horses or cows.
Above the pens was an extra level, where Derrek stood it was open above him.
Where is she hiding? I can't hear anything. The corner there is empty too, would have been a great spot behind the hay bales. Up the ladder also valid option, better check it first.
He moved toward the rungs when he heard a giggle come from the deeper in the pens. The hairs on his arms raised. Ah man, that's just nope. Big nope.
He holstered his rubber gun, took the first rung and shone his flashlight deeper into the pens. The ones to his right —he counted five— all seemed empty, left all except the fourth. He couldn't see exactly what, but his light illuminated a lot of flies. Oh please no. Don't let there be a body. He got off the rung, his hand dropped to his rubber gun but it automatically went further to his service weapon. As he moved into the hallway separating the pens, he unbuttoned the holster. His focus was full on the swarm of flies. He passed the first row of pens and double checked each of them. Both empty.
He almost screamed as the door he entered by, clicked shut. In turning, he drew his weapon but there was nothing there aside from a closed door. His heart was in his throat, he tried to swallow the stress away. Was that the wind? Was she hidden back there?
First, it wasn't the wind, as he could hear metal chains clinking against the door. Great, locked in.
Second, it wasn't her either; the giggle returned, straight behind him from somewhere in the empty pens. Even better, locked in with a giggling girl and a body. What's next? He turned back toward the pens. He got on tiptoes and tried shining into the pens to his right, the giggle pens, but couldn't see more. He tried controlling his breathing but it kept speeding up along with his heart.
He holstered his service weapon. Calm down, Derrek, or you'll be shooting the place up. You brought he rubbers for a reason. He drew the rubber gun and took slow steps deeper down the hall.
Second pen: left was clear except for some straw, right had some barrels. He started smelling something rotten.
Third pen: right had some wood stacked, left was clear. The buzzing from the flies was loud here, he shone up and saw a whole lot of them flying about. They were feasting on something, the smell was getting worse. It didn't feel amiss in the environment but it made his stomach turn nonetheless.
Another giggle, Derrek turned in a hurry but saw nothing. Or there's something in that last pen to the right or it could be coming through a hole somewhere. But better check out four to the left here first. Here goes nothing.
Fourth pen: he just passed over right in a hurry, not seeing anything white he shone into the left pen. On the ground was something. He saw a shirt before turning away, swallowing. God damn, I'm gonna barf. He looked away for a few seconds. He had never seen a body before, the smell was worst. He expected bad meat but this felt different. He recognized it, which made it even weirder. This smells like that time I forgot a crate of mandarins in my garage. It goes deep but I expected a body not to smell like rotten fruit.
Derrek focused his flashlight on the shirt again. His heart beat fast in his chest.
It wasn't only flies, worms were there too. They wriggled around inside, over and beside the shirt. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of them, fighting with the flies for their piece.
A mold stood out on the pieces skin, which had been pierced in multiple spots but not eaten. The red and green skins. Apples? And an orange too there.
His light went further over the shirt. It was only a shirt, filled with several *Look for right word* delicatesses for the little buggers here. These guys are having a feast here and I'm almost shitting my pants. Had me for a moment there. There doesn't seem to be anything else in there, just a distraction. He checked the pen for anything beyond the shirt but there were only some barrels.
Another giggle came from behind him, it still chilled him a bit but the fruity body had taken the edge off. He turned around and went further down the hall, to the last pen on the right.
The gate was in front of him too, the one chained together from the front. He checked the left pen first, but only saw some nicely stacked timber.
The pen to the right was open, the gate removed. His light caught on a lot of metal scrap as he came to the front of it. Metal pipes, the pen's gate itself, rainpipes, broken tools,… all stacked in a haphazard way. That's impossible to hide in. There doesn't seem to be any holes in the walls. Nothing beneath it either. Where the hell is she?
His light went to the pipes stacked at the back of the pen, against the wall. He kept going up with his light and saw one of the pipes going up through the ceiling. The light followed the pipe back down again. It wasn't supported by the ground, it was fixed to the ceiling. There was a bend with an opening to the front. She's above me, using to pipe to echo her voice down below. He heard another giggle, not from his pen, from the back of the barn.
Derrek turned and shone his light down the hall. He expected the white dress to stand there in the middle of the hall. He got worse. From the ceiling, a head was staring at him upside down. Face white as a ghost, with a wicked grin. The girl's long black haired were pulled down by gravity, making the whole sight even worse. Derrek tensed up fully and released a not-so-manly "Dear mother of.".
The head whipped up again and he only barely heard some muffled footsteps coming from above. Derrek sighed. You had to become a cop. Wait, is she moving things around up there. She must be trying to get out. There were some boxes being moved about. Derrek forced himself through his shock and ran down the hall. At the ladder, he shone up his flashlight first but he could hear her scrambling around at the back of the level. He got up the rungs.
Upstairs was a very sturdy wooden level. It mostly contained more crates but it had been renewed recently, not a plank creaking yet. That's why I didn't hear her
There was enough headspace in the middle, with the roof slanting on both sides. The sound came from the back end, behind some crates. Something wasn't budging. Derrek moved toward it, flashlight and rubber gun at the ready. She was exerting some noises like heaving weights.
He found her on her knees, pulling away a crate in front of a small window. It was stuck behind a metal pipe, probably the one coming out down below. That seems fitting.
She stopped as the light shone on her, breathing heavily, but trying to keep quiet. She started turning her head with a low growl. Derrek wasn't having it, the things happening until this point had already pushed him far but in reality, she still scared him in her white dress and loose hair. The sight was ghastly, even here on her knees, very humanly stuck by the material plane. She turned further, the moment they made eye contact, Derrek fired a rubber pellet at her legs.
Her attempt to act scary, turned whiny in a wimp. "You shot me!" She said, dropping to her butt and rubbing her leg, searching for a wound.
"It was only a rubber." Derrek said. She looked at him with confused eyes, a tear visible in one of them. "Not so scary now, are you? It's illegal to pester an officer on duty. Get your hands in front of you." He pointed his gun to her hands. Her eyes turned wider, she didn't think this part through.
"It was just some fun, we didn't harm you."
"What's fun for you, isn't so for everyone else. Hands." She sat watching him a while longer, but slowly held out her hands. Derrek laid down his flashlight on one of the barrels, beam straight in her eyes. He holstered the gun and took his handcuffs out of the pouch. He only had a single set with him.
He approached her with the cuffs and her eyes grew even wider. She really hadn't expected that.
Metal chains clinked from the back of the barn. Both gasped for a fraction of a second and the girl took her chance. She slapped the cuffs, making Derrek drop them, and slipped between some crates.
"Damn it, stop!" Derrek shouted. The girl wasn't replying except for some hurried gasping as she wiggled through the crates. She got out between them and wanted hurry toward the ladder, but Derrek hadn't waited around. She lit up in his flashlight and he squeezed the trigger two more time.
One rubber caught her just beneath her left shoulder, the other on her right butt cheek.
"Aah!" She gasped, throwing herself to the ground. "Aaww, you shot me in the butt. You assho—!" she started, but her breath left her as Derrek put his hand on her shoulder and kept her down.
"Stay down, or I'll shoot you again." He waited for a few seconds, but the prospect of getting more rubber pellets was enough to keep her from squirming.
They were only halfway the level, he couldn't see past the edge yet. There was some movement below. I need to restrain her first, or she'll just slip by. But my cuffs are back there. Strips will have to do then. He got some zip wires from his pouch. She struggled a bit, but eventually held her arms behind her.
"Warren! Help!" She yelled, Derrek mumbled an obscenity and pulled the zip around her wrists, tight enough but not too, that was a danger with these zip ties. He got up and walked to the edge of the platform.
No sounds came from below, but as he saw over the edge he spotted someone in the door's opening. Watching him. He only remained for a second before running out, which was enough to catch an impression. It was a skinny, tall guy with a pumpkin mask. He wore a dark blue overall with, hopefully, fake blood patches covering it. He had left the back door open.
"Lovely guy, your Warren. Real gentleman." Derrek said as he returned to the girl. She scuffed at him. The light from Derrek's flashlight glittered around her eyes. They really do hurt… Come on, Derrek, you can't feel sorry. She was trying to scare you shitless here. But he did feel regret, no one wants to make a girl cry.
"Here, I'll help you sit up."
"No." She said quickly, sniffing her nose after the snap. "Please don't touch me." She turned herself over on her back and pain lanced over her face again. "You didn't have to shoot me three times, I'm putting in a complaint on you."
He couldn't hold back a laugh at that. "Missy, first, you don't run when an officer tells you to stop, second, I don't think you'll have a lot going on for you when I bring you in." Her eyes found his at that, wide open. Derrek let it sink in as he went back to retrieve his cuffs. She stayed seated this time. Hard getting up with your hands bound.
Derrek sat down on a crate beside her, set his flashlight to only a tiny beam and set it on the crate beside him. "So, let's start at the beginning. Name?" He asked.
"You're gonna leave me on the ground here? Who questions someone lain flat?"
"Hey, I couldn't touch you, remember?" She looked at him with frowned eyes.
"All, right, but please don't hurt me anymore." He got up again and helped her sit on an opposite crate. He noticed her looking toward the ladder one more time.
"I wouldn't try that with bound hands. It's high enough to break your neck, especially if you don't have your arms to break the fall. You could try jumping for the hay bales but bound like that they aren't gonna soften your fall, they'd just bounce you off, and break your neck on the next part." He said, she looked at him with a horrified expression. Derrek gave her a matter-of-factly shrug. She looked at the ladder again, blinked a few times.
"Nice to meet you, Ashley, I'm Derrek. I'd shake your hand, but hey." He said, grin on his face. He still felt a lot of adrenaline coursing through his body, but this helped.
She wasn't laughing.
"So, what brings you here this evening? Just hanging about with your friends?" He said with a grin. She looked at him with the stale expression again, she wanted to say something but thought better of it. [Move up] He took out his little notebook and gave her a new page behind the neighbor's words.
"Warren and I were just in the woods here when we saw you coming up to the house. Just wanted to pull a joke on you." She said. Derrek pinched the spot above his nose.
"Ashley, don't be like that. This is not going to help you. I don't think you're of age yet, but you can still get a few though years. Just be honest with me, and I'll make sure not to make a big deal out of this." He said, he wanted it to sound convincing, but he was serious about it. He knew how it was to be a kid, you have to test boundaries to grow into yourself.
She hesitated, "That's all, just Warren and me passing by." Derrek cringed. I won't be getting a lot out of her.
"You're from around here then? Or just hanging about in a random forest, scaring random people?" He said.
"Yes, we're both from [village name], out for a little walk."
Derrek started jutting down, mumbling his words. "[village name], Walking with boyfriend." From the edge of his sight, he saw her react.
"He's not my boyfriend." She interjected. Derrek waited for her to add anything. He kept staring without changing his expression. "Just a friend." He faked jutting down some more.
"And you always go and walk in your Halloween outfits?" He said, pointing his pen at her white, now a bit dirty, dress.
"Practice." She smiled. Derrek fought down a sigh.
Her phone buzzed from a pocket in the dress, it lit up through the fabric. She tried acting like nothing happened, shuffling about. Derrek got up without a word.
"Don't touch me! That's my property!"
"You are breaking and entering, don't talk to me about property." He made sure not to touch her too much, she was still a young girl. He got the phone out easily from the side pocket. The phone lit up from the movement. On the lockscreen, he saw the last few threads and their last messages. They read:
1 unread - Warren - Sorry - 20h47
6 unread - Farmoween - Yves: Ash, you out? - 20h45
2 unread - Mom - Dinner's in the fridge, don't be late x - 18h22
"You leave your mother on unread? You just lost some more respect points." She sat with a confused look, trying to look angry. He tried unlocking the phone.
All right, hacker man. Work your magic. 1-1-1-1, nope. 1-2-3-4, nope. 9-8-7-6, nope. Not locked yet, phew. 3-2-1-0, nope, what locked now? What device locks at four attempts, should be three or five… Locked for a minute. He looked at her, she sat smiling at his attempts. He checked the phone again, no fingerprint icon on the screen.
"Farmoween? You know we can inspect your devices fully once we bring you in?" She looked around uncomfortably, she didn't answer. The phone buzzed again.
7 unread - Farmoween - Yves: scream.
Ashley watched Derrek intently, unknown to her what he was reading. About 5 seconds after the text, a scream came. He heard it from the barn's front. She's probably in the house. Good to know that's not someone in danger. Just one of them, which makes 4 already, unless Yves is a girl's name. It read more like a command so I'm guessing Yves is the one keeping the lookout, and walking the roof; Warren is pumpkin man, running around outside; and one girl, the screamer.
"What's the screamer's name?" Derrek asked.
"What screams?" My god, she's like a toddler covered in pie, saying they didn't eat it. Is there something I can ask so she'll spill something she didn't want to? He thought about it when another message came in.
8 unread - Farmoween - Warren: ASH CAUGHT, SILENCE
Damn, kids have some brain on them. Ashley was watching him again. Can't let her know though. Derrek smirked and let out a laugh as if he just watched a cat video.
"What?" She asked. Derrek looked at her as if he forgot she was there. "What did they say?" FOMO, you're the curse of this age, but for once, you're a blessing.
She kept watching him expectantly.
"Some friends you got there." He grinned and walked to the ladder. He heard her shuffling impatiently. "Yves is the one on the roof right? Calling the shots?" He said, turning back to her. She looked confused for a bit. He saw she was ready to act like she didn't know any Yves again but interjected. "I sure hope he's not your boyfriend. Warren wanted to help you, but Yves is just a dick it seems." Her mouth fell open a bit, terror creeping into her eyes. He stepped closer to her again. "Letting a girl take the blame like that. Chivalry truly has gone." She was unable to maintain eye contact.
"No, that's not— We knew—" she was thinking out loud. Good, come on, spill the beans. As a cherry on the pie, they heard a door creak from the front of the barn, probably the house.
"Ah, that'll be them leaving." Her eyes grew wider and her breathing increased, going into full panic. Derrek acted as if he wanted to move toward the ladder. "Hmm, I could try to catch them. But I already have you locked up here. Runners or a sure catch. I think my chief would like me to bring someone in. So I'll just call it in and wait with you here."
She looked about from the front of the barn to Derrek. "No, they wouldn't." She said, panic trembling her voice. Her breath gained pace, but it halted suddenly. A memory seemed to come to her.
"Nice try." She let out a trembling laugh, it had gotten to her but Derrek was missing something. But what. Someone came outside probably, could be that Yves guy, however, they wouldn't give away their vantage. Could be pumpkin heading inside? He checked the phone again but no new messages, they were smarter than that. I can't wait around for them to set up, I need to get a visual. He pocketed the phone.
"Hey, I want that back." She said.
"At the station. Now, let's see." Derrek scanned the crates and its surroundings. He didn't find anything good to lock her against. He eyed the ladder for a seconds. In his mind's eye, he could see the young girl trying to climb the ladder, falling and hanging there with her arm on a handcuff. That'd hurt like a bitch. She doesn't deserve that. The girl was following his eyes.
"You can just leave me here, I won't go anywhere. I can't climb the ladder like you said." She tried, engaging subtle puppy eyes in the process. Thing is, that only works with puppies.. Or dogs in general, even the grown ones can pull it off if they really want the piece of meat you're snacking from the fridge.
Derrek was aware he would have to leave her alone, with probably one of the youths coming in to help her as soon as he left. Can't make it easy for them. He choose one of the vertical wooden beams holding up the roof. He helped her up, moved, clicked one cuff loose and held her tight with the other.
"No no no," she said as they approached the beam, "I'll get splinters. It's only a soft fabric." He eyed the fabric, and he couldn't deny it. The beam was rough, her dress way too light. He checked about and found one dusty old stinky blanket. She saw him moving toward it.
"Ehk, I'll take the splinters, no no no, there have been mice in that thing. Oh, it smells like mice even… Please no. Eeeeehk" She said as Derrek clicked her cuff shut around the beam wickled in mouse blanket. He got up and released his breath, it did stink a lot. She kept moaning, pulling the arrogant brat on him.
"Now, I'll offer this only once. Help me out here by staying quiet and I'll help you out later." He pointed at her phone in his pouch. "I've got your phone with me so even if they come take you out of here, we'll have enough to track you down. The others may be getting of this, but you aren't." Derrek took out his own phone and snapped a picture of her.
"Hey!" She snapped, her face in confusion.
"And I've got your face on my phone now too. That's synced to the cloud by now, if I die, you'll face will be linked to it. Macabre, I know, but you never know." Her eyebrows rose. She wanted to say anything but Derrek interrupted her again, "No, quiet, and I'll remember." He said, his face grave. That seemed to bring some focus to her too. She understood he was serious. She gave the tiniest of nods. Good girl.
Derrek picked up flashlight and moved to the front of the barn, still on the platform. He eyed the box she was trying to move. Behind it, he could see the tiny window. I can probably fit through. Can't announce myself with my light though. He turned off his flashlight, which made the girl shudder from further down. He blinked a few times, trying to speed up his night vision… alas it didn't work that way.
Blind, he tried to move the box slowly. Once he wriggled it free from the pipe, it moved easily. A bit of starlight shone in through the window, no other lights. Enough to see the handle. He turned the handle halfway, tested it, it was the right angle to open it wide. It was also pretty new, so it didn't creak. He stuck out his head and looked around. From here, he saw the backside of the farm, with the mowed field.
He had a better vantage from here, the mowed field spread pretty wide. Only the starlight was enough for him to see the difference between mowed and unmowed.
There was another light however. What in the world, is that a tractor? The machine was deeper to his right, beyond the part that was connected to the opening where the farmhouse stood. The tractor had one light on, it wasn't running however, no sound. Could have been on a while, I wouldn't have seen it when it was still light
Derrek stuck out his head out of the window and looked below. It was a drop of a few meters into a patch of hay. Damn, that's still high. Doesn't that only work in video games, jumping into a patch of hay from up high? Not going to try it now.
He checked for other movements around the barn, there weren't any. Only the back of the house was visible from here. The first story window with the watcher, presumably Yves, wasn't visible.
After closing the window, he saw Ashley looking at him in silence.
"Were you really going to jump that?" He asked in passing her. She only shrugged. Derrek peeked beyond the platform. Still empty, door still open.
He descended the ladder, looking through the steps. With the front gate still closed it was way too dark to spot anything. He was sure he saw the boy leave, but sneaking in while he was busy, wouldn't have been that hard. Recheck or move along? I wouldn't trap myself in one of those pens, but a kid's mind is different. He was scared, running the first time, so maybe he's scared now too. Derrek pondered for a bit, started walking toward the door at the back and then ran through the hall between the pens. He threw quick glances in each pen, but made sure to move quickly. If I'm hiding, the last thing I would want is some running through like a madman, especially if they have a gun. And they already know I'm here so no use being quiet.
He came to the end of the all, at the gate, but no sound came. He breathed the run off him as he walked to the back.
"What are you doing?" Ashley called from above. Derrek stopped at the end of the hall.
"Quiet was the deal." He whispered loudly to the roof. He heard a sigh, no further reply.
He peeked outside the back door. The fields he ran through before were straight in front of him. With the starlight, he only saw the leaves to the front, which could be hiding anything behind them. The rows were aligned with his line of sight but too close together for him to see anything. A light would have been visible in them, none were present.
To his right was the house, which he gave another closer inspection. The shadow on the roof stood out against the night sky, it was looking straight at him. Yeah, not creepy at all. Derrek waved at him nervously. He didn't wave back. I think it would be even creepier if he did wave back. Nothing I can do about him now, better get out of here.
He turned his head to his left, the orchard. The orchard's rows were aligned perpendicular to the field's rows, which again gave him some sight. There was more space between them, it gave him a tiny bit more sight. Just enough for him to pick the orchard over the fields. It's also closer to the tractor in the field, I'll see things coming way sooner and I'll be able to keep a lookout on the barn from there. And I really should call this in, could use some backup to catch them.
Derrek ran for the orchard.

Continue reading: 7 - Orchard

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