An eventful day.
The continental breakfast at the Opa Lodge was just as magnificent as I’d suspected it might be. Fresh eggs from coops on the mountain, venison sausage, and a small bread loaf with a crisp outer crust and soft yeasty center that I’m sure I’ll be raving about for years to come. And the coffee! A lawman’s dream come true. So good that I fished the thermos out of the back of the car and got them to fill it up for me.
Sheriff Patton and Captain Cheveyo both seem highly competent and helpful law enforcement officers, dedicated and concerned with their community’s welfare. Patton is a no-nonsense type, the sort of skeptic I find quite handy in the field, where I have to remind myself that a murder is sometimes just a murder. Cheveyo, on the other hand, is a bit of a mystic. Comes with the territory, he says. The Alo reservation is spirit-haunted, he tells me, and sometimes his duties involve things he can’t readily explain.
I kept this in mind as we scaled the mountain to survey the murder site. Or, rather, the site where the Phillips boy’s body was found. I’m now convinced he was dead when brought there. The physical evidence already pointed in that direction: there just wasn’t enough blood on the ground for all those cuts to have been inflicted on that spot. But in addition, when I dowsed the area, I got nothing at all. Which tells me little that’s useful about the killing itself, but at least indicates a certain coolness on the part of the killers. No one involved was very anxious or upset when they put him there. Something to file away for later.
The body didn’t tell me much, either. Dead meat seldom does once the spirit’s left it. There are two deep stab wounds in the back that most likely caused death. The locals’ suspicions of a ritual murder are probably well-founded, however. The ten wounds in the chest were made with care, and form a definite pattern, though I don’t recognize it as belonging to any specific rituals I’m familiar with. I made a quick sketch of the shape, however, and have included it below:
Forgive the crudity of my pen work. I’d appreciate it if you could have the pattern checked against the database. Some insight on its purpose could be significant.
After examining the body, we moved on to Phillips’ car, which yielded far more information. There, I found the residue of a great deal of passion, and enormous pain. Per Agency protocols, I had Sheriff Patton record the dowsing session, and include the transcript below:
Matthews: Now, remember: I’ll pass the wand over the car, maybe even climb in if I have to. I may enter a trance–
Patton: Like you didn’t do on the mountain?
Matthews: Precisely like I didn’t do on the mountain. Now, if I do enter that trance, I may speak incoherently, shout, turn red in the face, or even go pale and deathly silent. Whatever happens, just let me go. And John, if I seem about to injure myself or enter cardiac arrest, be ready to throw that bucket of water in my face. Are we clear?
Cheveyo: As crystal.
Matthews: Alright, gentlemen. Here we go.
love my love my life my love so hot so hard so beautiful… warmwetsofttonguetonguewrithestrainstrainstrainpain pain the PAIN— Hot wet how… What are you… Blood… BLOODohmygodsomuchblood… oh god ogodChris they’re everywhere knives again knives so many knives knives in the dark OWLS owlsowlsowlsowlsowlsowlsowlsowlsowlsowlsowls OwlsOwls OWLSOWLSOWLSOWLSOWLS OWLSOWLS OWLSOWLSOWLS—
At that point, Captain Cheveyo threw the water in my face, as I had begun to bleed from the ears and scalp. No permanent neurological damage was done, thankfully, and after a cup of the Sheriff’s nightmarishly strong black coffee, I was able to parse the experience.
As you know, sir, I’m a Class-One Dowser with ten years’ field training. And yet I have never experienced so immediate and powerful a reading. Three things I am now convinced of: One, the love between Phillips and Melmoth was deep and genuine. Two, they were assaulted by forces of significant occult agency, on a mission of some urgency. And Three, Phillips’ soul did indeed leave his body in that car, and left a psychic scorch mark on it fit to blister the paint.
Sheriff Patton remains skeptical, but did appear a bit shaken by witnessing my channeling of the trauma. He was quite concerned about my well-being afterward, strangely tender for so gruff an individual. Sign of a good heart, my grandmother would have said. He insisted that I return to my room at the Lodge to recover, but I assured him that I was fine. A hot shower to wash the blood out of my follicles, and I’d be right as rain.
Captain Cheveyo, in contrast, became withdrawn after the reading. He left the building, in fact, while I was getting cleaned up. Sheriff Patton said he’d gotten a call from the reservation, and left in a hurry. Private Alo business, apparently. But he did leave me a note, containing three words that both explained some of the ill ease I’ve suffered since arriving at the Opa Lodge, and turned my blood to ice:
“Opa means Owl.”