FBI Agent Aimee Gable has been intrigued by supernatural stories since she was little. She was never able to pursue the future she wanted due to a turn of events that changed the direction of her life. She never dreamed she would be a law enforcement officer, let alone end up seeing dead people and coming face to face with creatures that should only exist in horror films. Aimee's faith is challenged as she is forced to choose betweeen good and evil. What is she willing to sacrifice for the ones she has lost and longed for all her life? Are her grandfather's stories merely myth or is there a sinister truth to them?
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By Marty Cedillos
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Marty Cedillos
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAs a kid, Aimee was intrigued by myths and legends and anything that had to do with science fiction or supernatural stuff. Her grandfather was to blame for that. He was a great storyteller. When she was little, he would spend hours telling his grandchildren about the adventures his own father had experienced when he was young. There was one story in particular that always bothered her. She always wondered if it were true or if he'd just made it up.
Her grandfather was a retired math teacher; he was a quiet man but very stern. He was good, though. He was not too tall, just five feet five, and was slender. He was very proud of his father and spoke about him often. He and his granddaughter were very close. Every secret or concern she had, she could tell him.
She was away in Europe on her senior trip when it was abruptly cut short. Mrs. Leonard, her English literature teacher, pulled her aside to give her some bad news.
"Aimee, honey, I need to talk to you in private, please," she said.
"Yes, ma'am," Aimee answered.
The teacher pulled her into her hotel room and hugged her very hard. Aimee was scared and noticed that Mrs. Leonard had a weird expression.
"What's wrong? Did I do something?" Her voice was shaky.
"No, honey, it's not you. I just have some bad news." She paused. "Your grandfather called early this morning, requesting that you come home ASAP. I have your tickets ready for you to leave in two hours."
"But why? What's going on? I don't want to leave. Did something happen back home?" It hit her that something must be wrong. Why else would she be leaving in such a hurry? "Mrs. Leonard, please tell me what's going on. I can handle it. Please," she begged.
"Sweetheart, I'm not supposed to say anything, but ... oh heck, I will, even though I'm not supposed too. Something happened to your parents. They still don't know what, but I was instructed to send you home and not say anything."
"I understand. I won't say anything to my grandfather. I'll pretend I don't know." Her voice trembled as she spoke. What in the world had happened? Were her parents all right?
Her flight was going to take ten hours. What was she going to do? She had to stop thinking the worst, so she tried reading one of the books she had with her, It by Stephen King. Thank God the flight was not delayed. It would be stopping in Houston, but she wouldn't have to change planes. She was very fidgety, and the flight attendant kept eyeing her like she was going to go postal. But she must have fallen asleep at some point because the next thing she knew, the captain was announcing the plane's arrival in El Paso, Texas.
El Paso, Texas, was her permanent home away from Rupert. It was late, and the airport was pretty empty. She walked across the terminal, and when she reached the escalator, she saw her grandpa waiting for her at the bottom, near one of the airport restaurants. As she reached the bottom of the escalator, she could see concern on his face. "Hi, Grandpa. What's going on?"
Her grandfather reached for her and hugged her fiercely. He pulled back and held onto her shoulders, looking straight into her eyes. Sighing, he let her go. "Let's get to the car first, and then I'll explain everything." They retrieved her luggage and walked in silence to the car.
Once in the car, he said, "Okay, honey, look, I don't have many details, but the police found your parents ..." His mouth shook like he wanted to cry, and his eyes filled with tears. He took in a deep breath and continued. "Your parents are ... dead."
"What? No! No! That can't be true! What happened? Tell me!"
"Sweetheart, their bodies were found ten miles from the house. They had gone out for a walk, the police think."
"Were they murdered? Were they attacked by an animal?" She was so confused.
"They don't know," he said, sighing.
"Who doesn't know? The police? Are they stupid? Why not?"
"Their bodies don't show any signs of torture or evidence that someone or something killed them. Except that their bodies look like they were embalmed."
"What are you saying?"
"The police can't explain it, dear-it's all too confusing. They're just as puzzled as you and I."
"Grandpa, I want to see them. I have to, please." She pleaded with her eyes.
Both her parents had been history professors at the University of Texas at El Paso. They loved life; you could say they were your typical hippies. At least that's what she called them. They had a house in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, where they spent every summer. Aimee's parents always took walks in the afternoon. She was sure it had happened during one of those walks. The summer home was the best place, a place any kid would enjoy. She used to get lost and have the best adventures. Of course, her wild imagination had helped orchestrate her adventures.
Grandpa had already made their reservations, and their flight would not be too long. They flew out the next day to Prince Rupert, British Columbia. She kept herself occupied on the plane by reading. Grandpa kept glancing at her from the corner of his eye. She wondered if he thought she was going to go bonkers. They had to change planes in Phoenix. It was a good thing the flight was ahead of schedule. They got to Rupert around two in the afternoon, and as soon as she stepped out of the plane, she took a deep breath. "I'm home," she sighed.
This place was breathtaking. She loved it here; she always looked forward to coming in the summer. It's all she had known during this summers, for as long as she could remember. They rented a car and drove to the police station, where they met the chief of police, Robert Miller, a very polite man. Aimee had met him before, at a party her parents had been invited to by one of the locals they'd befriended. The Prince Rupert detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police served the city of Prince Rupert as well as the surrounding area. The station had a general investigation section, a police service dog and dog handler, one forensic identification specialist, and a crime prevention/media relations officer.
"Mr. Garcia, nice to meet you finally. Ms. Gable, yes, I remember you now. I'm sorry about your parents. My prayers are with you and your family."
"Thank you, Chief Miller. Tell me everything," she pleaded.
"Well, we can't explain it. It's very bizarre. Whatever happened to your parents out there, it's unexplainable. We have a specialist doing an autopsy as we speak. As soon as we find out something, we'll contact you."
Nothing was ever found. Her parents' deaths remained a mystery. She and her grandfather buried them in Rupert, which is where they would have wanted to stay. She knew they'd planned to retire there. She kept her parents' house. Everyone took the deaths hard. Her mother's brothers were shocked when they heard. But no one took it as hard as Aimee's grandfather. His only daughter, with whom he'd been very close, was gone. He died six months after Aimee's parents.
She was determined to find out what had happened to her parents. She inherited everything her parents had, so she didn't have to work, but that seemed ridiculous to her. She started college that fall at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, majoring in forensic anthropology and minoring in criminal justice. She graduated seven years later, receiving a PhD in forensic anthropology, and signed up with the Portland, Oregon, police department. One of the few friends she had made during her college years, Lisa Collins, lived there. They had become good friends, and Aimee had gotten to know her family very well. She spent every Christmas with them for several years. Lisa's father was a retired police officer, and he was the one who told her about the opening in the department. It's not like she had any family that she needed to consider when deciding whether to move so far away; she had uncles, aunts, and cousins, but she was not very close to them.
Over time, she and Lisa drifted apart, until one day, Aimee realized that she had not heard from her in two years. Aimee gave up trying to contact her. She did her three years of service there, and they were fun but hard. She soon realized she wanted more out of her life and career, so she applied to the FBI in Portland and was accepted. She went through training that was brutal but worth it in the end.
Four years later, she was still working for the FBI in Portland. She kept to herself, doing what was ordered of her. Years had passed, but she still had no clue what had happened to her parents. Then one day, out of nowhere, a body was found in Portland in the same condition her parents had been found in. There was no sign of struggle and no evidence-just the inside of the body was charred. She started doing research into to how many bodies had actually been found this way and never made it into the news. She found that there were indeed other cases that had just been filed away unsolved.
These sparked her curiosity again. She had not even started any research before. She had just given up, thinking it was just a freak accident. But now she had access to national files few people could get into. So she started her research and was shocked to learn that between British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and six other states, there had been over 1,000 bodies found since the early 1900s. Who knew if there had been other bodies found in the past? There were no records to check. But the 1,000 meant ten bodies, give or take, per year.
Why hadn't anybody done any research on this? Aimee was furious, but she didn't know who she could turn to. She did find confidential files that were being worked on by some FBI agent in Washington, D.C. But she needed higher clearance to access the cases. In the meantime, she was glad to see someone was working on them.
Chapter TwoFinally, they were bringing in the experts. Agent Harper, Aimee's boss, started briefing her. The FBI in Washington, D.C., had four agents tracking the killings. The spike in the number of murders had turned the cases into a priority.
Harper was telling Aimee about the agents on the case when four men walked into the conference room. The one in front was wearing a black suit. He was not too tall-about five feet five, an inch or so shorter than Aimee, and his blond hair had a military cut. He approached Harper like he knew him, and they shook hands. The other three stood behind him, just glancing around the room.
"Harper, nice to see you again. It's been years since we worked together," the agent said.
"Yes, it has. Aimee, let me introduce you to Irv Lowness, the senior agent in charge."
"Nice to meet you. I'm Dr. Aimee Gable," she replied.
He shook her hand.
Harper apparently had already met the other three as well, so he started introducing them to her.
"Dr. Martin Wong, forensic anthropologist. Aimee, you will be pairing up with him. Dr. Wong, this is Dr. Gable. She's one of our local anthropologists here."
Aimee shook his hand. Harper continued.
"Agents Peter Borland and Andrew Jackson."
She noticed that they all were older than she was, except for Andrew. "Nice to meet you," she said, shaking their hands.
"Well," Harper said, "you all just let me know if you need anything, I need to go. Lowness, you know where to find me if you need anything." Harper walked out of the conference room.
The three agents walked over to the table and set their laptops and files on top of the table. When they all took a seat, she figured she better sit down also. Lowness immediately started briefing them.
"Okay, gentlemen," Agent Lowness said.
Aimee raised an eyebrow; she wondered if this man was chauvinistic. She guessed she'd find out in time. He looked stern. As Lowness talked, she looked at all of them one at a time. She had the habit of watching people, trying to figure them out. Dr. Wong actually looked out of place. He wore thick glasses and was small, thin, and nervous. He kept rubbing his hands. He looked over his glasses every time someone said something. She wondered if the rest saw her the same way, given that they were in the same field. Borland was tall, maybe five feet eleven, and burly.
She thought back to herself for a moment and imagined how she looked to them; she thought of herself as pretty. At five feet six, she was slender, with dark brown mid-length hair. She guessed that Andrew was around her age-maybe a little older, but not by much. He was pretty tall-six feet two and muscular-and very good looking. She kept thinking, Boy, he sure is a cutie. He wore his black hair in a ponytail at the nape of his neck; his hair was probably to his shoulders. She thought he looked Native American, but his skin color was lighter. His jeans were dark blue, a contrast to his battered cowboy boots. She had to tell herself to stop drooling. She was such an idiot. This was not excusable behavior. Oh well, she thought, a girl can dream, right? She turned her attention back to what Agent Lowness was saying.
"The victim found here in Portland was a thirty-year-old woman, Norma Flores. She was a nurse, and she had left work around ten in the evening; her car was still parked in the employee parking lot. Her body was found in Portland's Forest Park of Portland, a wooded area. She was stumbled over by two bikers." Agent Lowness's voice was very somber and monotone. "She was not raped or beaten in any way; the only evidence is the charring inside of her body." His cell phone rang, and he stopped to check it. "You all continue. I need to step out."
It's hard to explain how the bodies looked in the photos. They looked mummified on the outside; the skin was hard and dry, but the bodies looked like they had been embalmed. Every time a body was cut open, it was all charred black. Everything was burnt to a powder except for the bones and the outside skin.
"This is something not natural," Andrew said with a far-off look. "Something inhuman is doing this."
"Don't start with your superstitious crap!" Lowness exclaimed in a high-pitched voice.
"Well, do you have a better explanation for this? A normal human cannot do this to a body." Andrew looked pissed.
She interrupted their squabbling. "I have already sent in a sample of the charred remains to the lab. If the results come back with any chemical trace, they'll let us know." She had to speak very loudly to be heard. She felt intimidated by them.
"Sweetheart, the results are going to come back negative. It's just like all the others we have found, and you're just wasting time here," Borland replied. Pulling away from the table, he went and stood near the window and looked out, his arms crossed in front of his chest.
Andrew didn't look any happier; his nostrils were still flaring from his argument with Borland. Wong had been very quiet throughout the whole thing; he just glanced up and nodded or shook his head periodically, nothing more.
Aimee ignored Borland. "There was another body found floating in the terminal in Rupert, BC. It was a sixty-year-old man. He was last seen leaving church around 5:30 pm. His car was found parked in front of the church. The body had no traces of mutilation or trauma except for the same charred evidence as all the others."
She knew about this victim because Chief Miller had called her with the information. They had kept in touch over the years just in case something close to what had happened to her parents ever surfaced.
After a few minutes, Borland set back down; his back was straight as a rod, but he just glared at the table. Andrew reclined his chair as far as it would go. She thought he was going to tumble over. She kept nervously playing with her fingers while trying to figure out these three guys.
Dr. Wong started going down a list of victims: "Last year two bodies were found in Montana, a forty-year-old accountant, Rick Root, and his forty-three-year-old wife, Evelyn Root. They were found in a dumpster. Had similar findings, nothing again. And the names continue: Steve Sander from Texas, Darren Darret from Atlanta, Britt Lungford from New York, Amanda Da Sulva from Boston, Stanley Gable and his wife Rose Garcia de Gable from Rupert, Hideaki Sata from Miami, Sharon Da Canha from Tennessee-there's too many to read." Dr. Wong threw the list to the middle of the table. They all stared at it.
"There's no significance to this crime. Whoever this is, he's diversely picking victims at random. There are no common characteristics. It's going to be hard to profile the fiend." Dr. Wong rubbed his hands together.
Aimee was caught off-guard when Dr. Wong read her parents' names. She noticed Andrew staring at her suspiciously. He must have seen her tense up. She just looked away from his stare. "What do we look for? What do you think it is?" she said, not meeting their eyes.
Excerpted from Within by Marty Cedillos Copyright © 2010 by Marty Cedillos. Excerpted by permission.
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