[Mysteriousheartland.com] As Greg, Davin, and Misa walked down the lengthy dirt and gravel trail through the woods with only the moonlight to light up their path, Greg and Davin repeatedly glanced over their shoulders. Misa walked ahead of them—her eyes much more used to the darkness. A branch snapped, and Davin froze in his tracks.
“If I thought that was anything other than an animal, I’d let you know,” Misa said, her words stressed with impatience.
“Mike has only been out of jail for a couple of weeks,” Davin said. “Forgive me if I’m a little cautious. We can’t afford to bail anyone else out. Not all three of us.”
“At least Mike finally came to his senses and split us up,” Greg interjected. “Especially for this expedition… from what I hear, they don’t look too kindly on trespassers.”
Davin hurried to catch up with the others. “How many places have we trespassed?”
“Yeah, but we were never this close to the end before. We can’t afford anymore slipups. All we have to do is find this ‘healing spring’ and get a sample of the water. Then everything will be ready.”
A moment of silence followed while the trio continued deeper into the woods, and then Greg began to whistle. Every few minutes, Davin smacked the mosquitoes that landed on his neck and forearms. The insects did not bother his two friends. As twigs, stones, and dirt passed under their feet, they thought the trail went on forever. Finally, it curved to the left and began a steep descent into a valley, where Greg, Davin, and Misa could hardly make out the top
of a roof silhouetted by the moon. Darkness obscured most of the building, but it was the remains of the former Vishnu Springs Hotel. In the distant past, lanterns would have lit the hotel, and the chatter of the guests would have echoed in the valley. Today, its graffiti covered walls stood silently in the moonlight.
“It’s about time,” Davin grumbled. “I thought we would never find this place.”
The trio rushed as fast as they could down the hill, avoided tripping over any fallen branches, and sloshed through a shallow stream that flowed over the path. Greg got to the clearing first, and thinking it was safe to do so, he flicked on his flashlight. He scanned the area for any sign of the fabled spring. Finally, the beam from his electric torch fell on a shallow pool of water about twenty yards away. A thick layer of algae coated it. This looks just as likely as any other spot, he thought, and he signaled to his friends to join him. As Davin and Misa caught up, Greg stuffed his flashlight into the pocket of his cargo shorts, pulled out a small jar, unscrewed the lid, and knelt down to dip it in the water. As he did so, Misa froze. She heard what the others had not. Under the chorus of insects and the whisper of the wind blowing through the trees, the wheels of a car slowly cracked and popped the gravel on the trail.
“Do you remember how I said I would tell you if there was anyone else here?” she asked. Without waiting for a response, she added, “Someone’s here.”
Davin cast a worried look at the others. “Do you think it’s the cops?”
“Who else would it be?” Greg replied. “Damn it! We just can’t catch a break.” Cupping his hand over the mouth of the jar to strain out most of the algae and debris, he quickly dipped it into the pool of water, and looked around for a place to hide. The woods were dark, but appeared foreboding.
Misa and Davin were one step ahead.
Misa grabbed Greg’s shirt collar, pulled him to his feet, and the trio raced toward the old Vishnu Springs Hotel just as the headlights of a sheriff’s cruiser crested the top of the hill. For once, they were in luck; trespassers had pried open the hotel door long before they arrived.
Greg, Misa, and Davin—repressing fear and adrenaline—felt their way into the inky blackness of the building’s interior. Suddenly, the headlights of the cruiser struck the side of the hotel, and light poured in through the windows, brightening a doorway at the top of the stairs that led to the second floor. The Fallen quickly decided to go deeper into the building and find somewhere to hide.
“They must have seen our car on the side of the road,” Davin whispered. “I told you we didn’t park far enough away.”
“There’s nothing we can do about it now,” Greg replied as he groped the wall and led his friends past the stairs and a large, metal bathtub into the main hallway on the first floor.
“This reminds me of the time we went to Sunset Haven and that groundskeeper almost caught us,” Davin said. “Remember?”
Greg eyed him disapprovingly. “Let’s reminisce later, ok?”
Misa, hearing a car door slam shut, grabbed Davin and Greg and pulled them under the stairs. There was enough room to stand, and so the trio pressed up against the wall. Misa found herself behind her two companions. It was uncomfortable, but adjusting would have made too much noise. Already, they heard footsteps approaching the building, and light from two high-powered flashlights shown through the cracks in the stairs. The garbled static of a radio pierced the air.
“So far nothing on those trespassers,” one of the deputies said in a deep voice. “We’re going to check the building.”
“Ten-Four,” the radio crackled.
As the footsteps of the deputies came closer, Misa smelled the salty perspiration spreading across the back of Davin’s t-shirt. Her stomach rumbled, and blood pumped through the veins just under the surface of Davin’s neck. Pressed up against his shoulders, she felt his heart beating rapidly. She closed her eyes and started to count to ten.
The footsteps stopped. “I’ll check upstairs,” one of the deputies said. “I haven’t heard anything, but do a sweep of this floor anyway, just to make sure. The kids probably heard us coming and ran off into the woods. Who would be dumb enough to try to hide in here?”
His partner laughed. “This would be so much easier if we had a K-9 unit. If nothing else, the dog would scare the little creeps.”
As the heavy thump of boots rained down on the stairs above their heads, Davin felt Misa’s teeth press against his neck near his jugular vein, and he tugged on Greg’s shirt. At first, Greg brushed him off, but sensing his friend’s urgency, he turned his head just in time to see what was happening by the faint glow provided by the sheriff deputy’s flashlight. The deputy, by that time, stood parallel with the staircase, just a few feet away. Using the noise from the ascent of the deputy’s partner as cover, Greg backhanded Misa in the forehead. God, I’ve wanted to do that for a while, he thought. Misa jerked back in surprise and released her hold on Davin.
The sheriff’s deputy had not heard anything. He walked past the stairs and entered the main hallway, and Greg and Davin breathed a sigh of relief. Misa, although clearly upset, regained her balance and bit her tongue. If they caught her, she knew it meant spending the rest of her life in a hospital, fed a steady diet of Thorazine. Still, it took all her willpower to stop from lashing out in retribution.
As the footsteps of the deputies disappeared deeper into the interior of the abandoned hotel, the Fallen allowed themselves to relax. They shifted position, so Misa stood in front of Greg and Davin. Davin rubbed his neck bitterly, and checked his hand to make sure Misa’s teeth had not broken his skin. Finally, after a moment, Greg gently pushed Misa and whispered “let’s go,” in her ear.
The deputies, one on the ground floor and one on the second, chatted through their radios as they searched one room after another. The Fallen crept slowly through the darkness toward the door, careful not to make a sound. Once outside, they made a beeline for the trail.
“What the heck was that?” Davin hissed between ragged breaths as the trio jumped across the stream and began to walk up the steep incline.
“I’m sorry,” Misa replied. “I haven’t eaten in days.”
“We could have gotten caught,” Greg lectured. “You know what that would mean. How could you do that?”
Greg checked his pocket to see if the small jar of pond water was still there. It was. “At least we got what we came for. Let’s get the heck out of here before those cops catch up to us.”
Davin and Misa both agreed, and the Fallen disappeared into the night.
[New episode every Friday…]
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