[Mysteriousheartland.com] The Fallen’s dark blue Toyota Corolla splashed and skidded its way down the muddy, dirt road. Thankfully, tall rows of unharvested corn flanked the car on either side, making it almost invisible to prying eyes. The song “Ghost of Laura Palmer” by Finnish melodic death metal band Swallow the Sun played in the background.
“I’m glad this car can take punishment,” Mike said as he swerved to avoid the most obvious potholes. Even still, every few moments the Toyota’s tires struck one and the car rocked violently.
“Watch out,” Greg complained from the backseat. “I get motion sickness.”
Suddenly, Mike slammed on the breaks. The tires swerved and the car stopped inches from a ravine that spanned the width of the road. A pool of murky water obscured the cleft from view, so Mike nearly drove into it. A few more inches and they would have found themselves stranded in a cornfield in rural DeWitt County, Illinois.
“Well, this is where we get out,” Mike announced.
Aurelia, Emmet, and Greg piled out of the car while Mike popped open the trunk. The hatch lifted and Davin and Emily crawled out.
“Did you have fun back there?” Emmet asked sarcastically as Davin and Emily dusted themselves off.
“At least you don’t have to clean the bathroom anymore,” Aurelia laughed. Mike made Davin and Emily clean their bathroom for a month as punishment for passing information to a rival group, the Satanists.
“Great,” Davin grumbled. His head hurt from multiple bumps and jolts.
Mike examined the crevice in the road and shook his head. “Man, that was close,” he said. “I almost didn’t see that.”
“Looks like we’re going to have to walk the rest of the way,” Greg added, tapping his cane on the ground for emphasis.
“Oh, look,” Emmet interjected, peering down the lane at the fence in the distance, “another haunted cemetery. Aren’t those a dime a dozen?”
“More like a nickel,” Mike said. “But we should check it out. Locals tell peculiar stories about Old Union Cemetery, and in a gallon of lies there might be one drop of truth.”
The group cautiously navigated around the crevice and slogged their way through the mud toward a line of trees, beyond which lay the remnants of Old Union Cemetery.
Greg caught up to Mike and addressed him in a low whisper. “I can understand taking Davin back after his betrayal, but that girl? She’s not one of us. What are you thinking?”
“You’re right,” Mike replied. “She isn’t, but she might still be useful.”
“How?” Greg demanded. “We can’t trust her. Why let her come along at all?”
“We won’t trust her,” Mike explained. “Not now. Not ever. But Davin told me one of the Satanists is her brother. That’s why she keeps running back to them. We may not like her, but Davin does. Why sacrifice Davin just to get rid of her? Besides, deception works both ways. We can use her against the Satanists just as much as they use her against us.”
Greg chuckled. “Too bad for her.”
“I don’t have to tell you that we need all the help we can get at this point,” Mike added.
“Still, I don’t like it. I’m going to keep an eye on her.”
“I bet you will,” Mike muttered under his breath.
“What are you talking about?” Davin yelled from the rear of the group.
“Nothing!” Mike shouted back. “Let’s focus on why we’re here. We have to investigate this place quickly before a neighbor calls the cops. We’ll play it by the book.”
As the Fallen neared the edge of the woods, they heard growling coming from the trees to their left and froze in their tracks.
“What was that?” Emily asked frantically.
Mike dug into the pockets of his trench coat and produced a small pair of binoculars. He scanned the woods, which luckily were barren of underbrush since most of the weeds were dead, and noticed something moving in the newly fallen leaves.
“What is it?” Emmet asked.
“I don’t know,” Mike replied. “There’s something moving around.”
“Let’s check it out,” Greg said as he began moving towards the sound.
Mike tried to protest, but his friends left him standing alone as they walked toward the woods. He shook his head and followed.
Greg entered the hinterlands of the forest and then stopped dead in his tracks. He was so startled by what he saw that he nearly fell over backwards and took Emmet with him.
Aurelia shoved her way past the pair. A few yards ahead, a mangy dog growled and whined menacingly, but did not move. Patchy, dark gray hair covered the dog, and it seemed malnourished.
“What is that?” Emily asked, using Davin as a human shield.
“It’s a dog,” Emmet replied hesitantly. “I think it’s trapped.”
“Let’s leave it alone,” Mike said. “We have work to do.”
Greg ignored his friend and crept toward the wounded animal. “Aw, who’s a good dog?” he said in a baby voice. “Yes, you are. You’re a good dog.”
The animal, caught in a metal trap, whined and sniffed at its blood-caked front paw.
“Hey, someone get a rag,” Greg said, but Emily already had a bandana out and quickly handed it over. Greg knelt down beside the dog and let it sniff his hand before he gingerly released the animal’s leg from the trap. Its tail wagged and it licked Greg’s face.
“Aw, it’s a Kodak moment,” Emmet said.
“Can we go now?” Mike insisted. “We still have work to do.”
Greg finished tying the bandana around the animal’s ankle and then stepped back. “All right, you’re free,” he said. “Go!” He pointed off in the distance, but the dog whined and limped toward him.
“I think she likes you,” Aurelia said.
Mike threw up his hands in disbelief.
“We should give her a name,” Greg suggested. “But I’m not sure what breed she is. I’ve never seen this before.”
“I have,” Emmet replied, matter-of-factly. “I’m sure she’s a coydog. Look at her snout and her ears. It’s exactly like the pictures I found online.”
“We should name her Casey,” Greg said, “after Aura’s boyfriend.” He laughed. “Casey the Coydog!”
“Hey!” Aurelia fumed, but Greg ignored her.
“You can’t be serious,” Mike protested. “Look at it. It probably has fleas, rabies, scabies, or Crowley knows what else.”
“Didn’t you just tell me that we need all the help we can get?” Greg replied. “Keeping a dog would be great. She can sense things we can’t, and she can even guard our HQ. Plus, we can take her for walks and play fetch and brush her and―”
“Alright, alright,” Mike said. “But she has to sit with you in the backseat when we go home. Davin and Emily go back in the trunk. First, we have to check out this cemetery. That’s the reason we came all this way, remember?”
“What now?” Emmet asked. “Weeping women in white? Mystical vanishing houses? Orbs? The key to energy independence?”
“Ghost lights and cold spots near the back of the cemetery,” Mike replied.
“Oh, that’s original.”
The Fallen and their new canine companion walked past the barbed wire fence and into the cemetery grounds. A small plot surrounded by an old, rusted fence lay in the far left hand corner.
“Up here,” Aurelia remarked as she ran ahead.
As the group neared, Casey the Coydog began to whine and growl, and she refused to approach the area.
“What did I tell you?” Greg asked. “I knew she would come in handy.” He bent down and patted her neck. “Who’s a good dog? Yes, you are. Yes, you are.”
Mike rolled his eyes and turned toward Aurelia. “Do you sense anything?”
Aurelia closed her eyes for a moment and concentrated. “I think something is here, but I don’t think it’s human, or was human, anyway.”
“Interesting,” Mike said. “Let’s document the area and see how the pendulum reacts. We can’t be sure until we confirm this from several sources.”
“You’re nuts,” Emmet said. “Nothing you’re ‘feeling’ here is evidence of anything. The dog is whining because it’s in pain, and Aura’s testimony is bunk because she’s dating a guy who sells meth for a living.”
Greg tried to suppress a smile.
“You just dismiss anything you can’t rationally explain,” Aurelia said, fuming at Emmet’s insult. “You can’t reduce everything to an equation, you know.”
Mike touched Aurelia’s shoulder and shook his head. “Let’s keep looking,” he encouraged. One day we’ll have proof, he thought. One day soon, even if we don’t find it here.
[New episode every Friday…]
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