Labno & Carter – Episode 4

HOUSE OF HORRORS

Rather than suffer Dan’s bear with a sore head routine, and because it was on the way, I detoured back home. I knew he’d have at least two sets of threads to choose from, so I left him to gear up and went ahead to Sahara’s property.

When I arrived, the narrow street was eerily quiet. On alert, I climbed from the car to survey the area, catching the twitch of curtains to my left. That wasn’t the attention I was worried about, though. Some of the creatures we now share space with can go full-on invisible man. Well, not in the sense of shades and bandages, and the phenomenon isn’t gender-specific, but they can cloak themselves from view. I digress.

When I was satisfied there were no immediate threats, I continued towards my destination. I pride myself on my instincts, but I have to admit, it helps to have cool tech. The RDU has some of the best toys, too. If there had been a presence in my immediate vicinity, my watch would have lit up like a neon sign. The thing is pretty handy, but it’s not infallible. Had it been a god hiding their presence, I would have gotten zilch from the device, and I’d like to say gods have better things to do than follow me around but Eris would probably take pleasure in tormenting me.

Not that I needed a reminder, the tattoo on my wrist was a near constant itch and the closer I got to my deadline, the greater the sting. Just another of Eris’s little amusements.

All thoughts of the tournament vanished when I reached Sahara’s driveway and spotted DC Glynn. Her riotous mane was tamed into a complicated knot, which immediately gave me hair envy, but that wasn’t what I honed in on. No, that would be the steaming cup of java in her hand.

I moved so fast towards the good stuff, the young constable blinked in surprise. “How did you-“

I raised a hand as I took a sip, savouring the first hit. Then, allowing the caffeine to work its way through my system, I met the detective’s gaze. “The very fact you’re my welcoming committee, and you came bearing gifts was a pretty good giveaway.”

She frowned at that, clearly not following my logic, but not disagreeing with my assessment either.

With a grin, I stepped past her and moved into the house.

I didn’t need to be told where to go. I followed the buzz of sound. I’d also inspected the site more than once.

Finding the room – or what was left of it, since Sahara had taken a hammer to her side fo the wall, I didn’t know which unnerved me more; the detritus left over from whatever had been housed in the cavity between, or the pale sickly pallor of the officers attempting to remove the evidence.

“Thanks for the coffee,” I said, honing in on Rahim, who looked surprisingly relaxed considering his wings took up most of the space.

He didn’t question how I knew. We’ve worked together enough to establish our own kind of rhythm. One of his first instincts would have been to protect DC Glynn from the horrors being uncovered, so giving her an important task – and supplying me with caffeine could be described as a vital one – meant she would be spared some of the burden.

“You’re welcome. I spared the team from-“

“Okay, I get the point. I’m a grouch. I’m also working towards hangry, so if you add frazzled to the mix, you’ve pretty much saved the day.”

One of Rahim’s brows shot up, arching above his shades in a comical fashion. “Coffee is not food.” He threw a bar in my direction, so fast I almost fumbled with it, worse, I almost dropped my cup.

Tearing into the wrapper with my teeth, I took a huge bite and washed it down with another hit of caffeine. “Much better,” I said, grinning.

That done, I turned to the techs working on the wall. “Show me what we’re dealing with.” My voice was sober, but not unkind. This kind of processing was new to the job description and they both looked green around the gills.

Working seamlessly, and clearly, they were a familiar team, they set up the imaging unit. It probably has a fancy name I’ve never bothered to learn, but this too is an impressive piece of kit. Basically, it records every detail of a crime scene and projects a series of holographic images to examine.

They knew exactly what I was asking because less than a minute later I was looking at the wall as it had been discovered. The majority of the plasterboard was still intact, but the gruesome image was still enough to turn my stomach.

Stepping forward I focused on the closest cocoon. The person inside, or the image captured of them, certainly appeared human. The man was naked, his frame positioned upright, arms by his side and bent at the elbow with his palms outstretched and touching the membrane as though trying to push his way out.

But it was his eyes that added the macabre factor. They were wide open and held a sheen so close to death it sent a shiver running through my entire body.

If that wasn’t bad enough, an officer stationed next door shoved his head through the gap in the wall, effectively pushing through the hologram right where the man’s stomach was, like a scene from Alien.

“DI Labno, you need to see this,” his head swivelled, making my stomach roll. “Where’s-“

“Right here,” Dan said, striding into the room.

In a smooth motion, he took my cup, handed it to one of the techs and replaced it with an industrial-sized travel mug before I had the chance to protest.

“Great,” the officer said, trying to hide his smirk. “We found something.”

Taking a large gulp from my new mug – more to fortify myself than anything else – I moved forward and prepared to step through the opening. “You heard the man,” I said to Dan. “Let’s go.”

Rahim’s chuckle and my partner’s ‘you’re welcome’ followed close behind me as I stepped inside the house of horrors.

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