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Authors: Jeff Shelby

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The Murder Pit

BOOK: The Murder Pit
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The Murder Pit

By Jeff Shelby

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

THE MURDER PIT

All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2014

cover design by Eden Crane Designs

 

 

This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or unauthorized use of the material or artwork herein is prohibited without the expressed written consent of the author.

Books by Jeff Shelby

The Joe Tyler Novels

THREAD OF HOPE

THREAD OF SUSPICION

THREAD OF BETRAYAL

THREAD OF INNOCENCE

 

The Noah Braddock Novels

KILLER SWELL

WICKED BREAK

LIQUID SMOKE

DRIFT AWAY

 

The Moose River Mysteries

THE MURDER PIT

LAST RESORT (JUNE 2014)

 

The Deuce Winters Novels (Under the pseudonym Jeffrey Allen)

STAY AT HOME DEAD

POPPED OFF

FATHERS KNOWS DEATH

 

 

Short Story Collections

OUT OF TIME

ONE

 

I wanted an old house.

I did not want an old house with a dead body in it.

“Move the light a little,” Jake said.

It actually seemed more like his butt said it because at the moment, he was on his hands and knees, trying to fit into an elevated, three-and-a-half foot crawlspace that appeared to not have been entered in close to 150 years. Given that he was a little over six feet and two hundred pounds, he was…struggling.

And being stubborn.

“Why don’t you just let me get up there?” I said, trying to move the light to wherever he wanted it. “I’m half your size.”

“More to the left,” his butt said. “Because we have no idea what the hell is up here.”

“Well, we know there’s a frozen pipe up there,” I said.

He grunted, which I knew was his way of telling me that he didn’t think I was funny.

I got that a lot.

My husband of six months was in the crawlspace of our 150 year old home for a couple of reasons:

The aforementioned frozen pipe, which is more or less a regular thing when you have to deal with Minnesota winters.

And because we owned a 150 year old home.

When I got divorced, I also divorced myself of the 5,000 square foot modern monstrosity that had been forced upon me by first husband. I’d made mistakes in both husband and house choosing. So when we finally cut the cord, I decided I wanted a house with character. It took me two years to find the right house and during that time, I’d also found the right husband. Jake, the one boy I’d truly loved in high school had found his way back into my life and we’d picked up right where we’d left off twenty years earlier. And right before our wedding and merging our families, I’d found my house with character.

A century and a half old. (Have I mentioned that already?) Right next to the railroad tracks. One bathroom. A dilapidated garage. Doors that didn’t close properly. A hole in the roof. Bats in the attic. A much-rumored ghost.

Jake stood outside with the realtor the first time he saw it and said, “This might have…
too much
character, Daisy.”

But it didn’t. I’d fallen in love with the original wood floors and the narrow staircase and the small rooms and the stories that were lurking in the walls. I wanted it and when he saw how much I wanted it, he relented with a smile and a shake of his head.

And now he was trying to get a hairdryer close enough to a frozen pipe to thaw it out. I couldn’t see his face, but I was fairly certain there was no smile.

“I can’t reach it,” he said.

“Which is why I should be up there,” I reminded him.

He muttered something and slid himself backwards, his feet coming out first. He lowered himself down to the ground, easing his way over the concrete ledge that made up the floor of the crawl space. I tightened the elastic wrapped in my hair, tugging the pony tail to make sure it was tight.

“You look like one of those people,” I said to him.

He surveyed his dirt and dust covered body. “A coal miner?”

“No, one of those people in Pompeii. The ancient massive volcano?”

“I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

“I know,” I said, taking the hair dryer from him. “But I still love you. Now boost me up.”

He lifted me up and I slithered into the dirty, concrete space. Spider webs clogged the wooden beams above my head and the dust lifted up into my eyes and mouth. I coughed and wiped at my eyes.

“Having fun yet?” Jake asked.

Pretty sure he was smiling now.

I ignored him and crawled forward on my elbows, trying to get to the back wall where the offending pipe from the kitchen was located. He angled the flashlight for me and I saw the pipe up above me and next to the brick wall. I reached out to touch it and was glad my fingers weren’t wet. Because it was so icy cold, I was certain my flesh would have stuck permanently to the frozen metal. And there wasn’t enough room for Jake to come up and help me. I looked down, squinting in the darkened space, trying to locate the hairdryer. I saw it, the pearly gray barrel blending in seamlessly with the layer of dust and dirt.

But I saw something else, too.

“Did you see this?” I asked, my eyes zeroing in on the floor.

“See what?” he said. “My eyes were full of dirt.”

“This door. Did you see it?”

“Nooo. I was looking for the pipe.”

“There’s a door,” I told him. “Like, a wooden door. That opens up.”

“Excellent. Can you get the hair dryer up there now so the pipe doesn’t burst?”

But I was enamored with the door. It was about three feet by three feet, made of several two by fours. I used my hand to clear the dust from it. A splinter sliced into my palm and I winced but even that couldn’t deter me.

“There’s a hole,” I said. “To pull it up and open it.”

“Daisy,” he said sternly. “The pipe.”

“Just a second,” I said. I stuck my fingers into the hole and tried to lift it out, but it was too heavy. “Do you have a screwdriver?”

“No.”

“Liar. There’s one right there on the table.”

He sighed and a moment later, slid the screwdriver into the space. I reached back with my hand, grabbed it and brought it over to the door.

“If that pipe bursts…”

“Oh, please,” I said. “It’ll be fine. It’s been frozen for hours; a few more minutes isn’t going to hurt. Did you know there was a door here? Where would it go?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “To someplace beneath the crawl space?”

I’d never even thought about the crawl space actually being above something. It was just sort of…there, this elevated concrete space in our basement that, after studying for about half a second, I’d decided would be good for storing things. To me, it was like a bonus shelf, four feet off the basement floor. I’d already thought of putting valuable up there, off the floor that I’d been warned by our home inspector might be susceptible to flooding.

But the area underneath, the concrete tomb that the crawl space created? My mind was already spinning. I was thinking of secret tunnels and buried treasure and mementos left by previous residents. I didn’t want to see what was down there; I
needed
to see.

I wedged the screwdriver into the hole, set my elbow against the concrete and lifted the door up out of the ground. It lifted easily and I used my other hand to get it out of the square and slid it to the side.

“I got it!” I yelled. “It’s off!”

“Do
not
fall in, Daisy,” Jake said.

“Throw me the flashlight,” I said.

“You have one minute,” Jake said, rolling the flashlight toward me. “And then I want that hair dryer on the pipe before this basement fills with water and drains our bank account. Well, what’s left of our bank account.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I said, grabbing the light.

I propped myself up on my elbows and angled the light down into the now-open door. The drop down was about twelve feet and the walls were made entirely of metal. I felt a twinge of disappointment. It looked like an old coal chute. I did not see a tunnel. I did not see treasure.

“Daisy?” Jake asked. “What do you see?”

I angled the light again, searching every crevice of the space. The light flickered over something and my hand stilled before it began to tremble. I tried to steady the beam of light, to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. I swallowed hard and wiped at the cobwebs clinging to my face.

“I see…a pair of shoes,” I said.

“Shoes?” Jake asked.

“Yeah.” I swallowed again. “And someone’s in them.”

TWO

 

Footsteps clamored on the wood floor above me.

“Don’t say a word,” I hissed at Jake.

“Well, maybe if you hadn’t screamed after you told me about the shoes, they wouldn’t be running down here,” he said.

I frowned at him but I was still facing the kitchen wall and he couldn’t see me.

He tapped on my foot. “Get out of there so I can take a look.”

I managed to wiggle out of the crawl space just as all four kids crashed down into the basement, eyes wide, ears open.

Four kids. Three girls and a boy. Emily (fourteen, mine), Will (twelve, mine), Sophie (ten, his) and Grace (eight, mine). We’d managed to dispense with the mine and his, however, since all four lived with us ninety eight percent of the time and had morphed fairly easily into a modern day Brady Bunch, sans the even numbers and maid. We were a unit of six, a unit that had a combustible quality and a ferocious curiosity and an uncountable number of quirks.

Will was first down. His blond hair flopped across his forehead and was in desperate need of a trim. “Why are you so dirty?” he asked accusingly.

“Because I was in the crawl space,” I said, trying to knock the dirt off my sweatshirt.

He peered up into the space, his eyes narrowing. He was the most observant of the four, the one we couldn’t pull anything over on. “What is Jake doing?”

Jake had shimmied into the crawl space the minute I’d eased myself out. “He’s…uh…unfreezing the pipe.”

“I don’t hear the hairdryer,” Emily said, her eyes, blue like her brother’s, just as narrow. “We heard screaming.”

Grace, the youngest, was attempting to climb onto a table to get a better look. “Are there snakes up there?” she yelled, her voice so loud that dust and cobwebs shook free from the rafters, raining down on us.

“Snakes? I want to see snakes!” Sophie said, pushing her glasses up on her nose so she could get a better look. “Daddy! Are there snakes?”

“No snakes,” Jake muttered. Then, “Oh. Huh. Wow.”

Will took a step closer, his eyes huge. “What? Is there a snake?”

“Nothing is wow,” I said, putting my arms out like a defender, keeping them from getting too close to the space. “We’re just working on the pipe. Head back upstairs.”

“Why did you scream?” Emily asked, squinting at me.

“I didn’t.”

She folded her arms across her chest. Her brown hair was so long, the ends brushed her hands. “You totally screamed,” she said.

“Cobwebs,” I said. “I got a cobweb in my mouth.” I wiped at my lips for emphasis. “Maybe even a spider. I don’t know.”

Her face paled. “Gross,” she said. She wasn’t fond of spiders. Or ladybugs. Or butterflies. Or anything else that remotely resembled an insect. Some days, this included her siblings.

“I don’t see any snakes,” Grace said, now standing on an old table and looking over my head.

“Aw man,” Sophie said, her face falling.

I grabbed Grace by the hips and set her back down on the basement floor. “All of you, back upstairs. Now. We’ll be up in just a bit.”

They all grumbled but headed back up the stairs. Will took one more look at me, then the space, then followed his sisters up to the main floor.

As soon as the door at the top of the stairs shut, I whispered, “You see?”

“I see,” Jake whispered back. “But I can’t get down there.”

“Well you aren’t going down there,” I said. “Because there is a
body
down there. But you see it, right?”

“I see it,” he said. “Pair of running shoes. Probably a guy’s. Dirty socks.”

I nodded. The shoes were blue with yellow stripes. And there were still feet in them.

I grabbed my phone off the table. “I’m calling the police.”

“Wait,” he said.

“Jake, we can’t wait,” I said, not believing that he thought we should do anything else. “There is…”

“Give me the hair dryer,” he said. “Before you call. So I can fix the damn pipe and create a little noise so four sets of ears don’t hear you on the phone telling someone that there’s a dead body in our new old house!”

I handed him the hair dryer. “What do I tell them?”

Jake twisted so he was on his back and tucked his chin to his chest so he could see me. His blue eyes were barely visible in the sea of dust covering his face. “Tell them that, because you insisted on buying an ancient house—despite neither yourself nor your husband having any technical expertise whatsoever which would allow us to, you know, fix things—we were up in a crawl space designed for really thin midgets because the jerry-rigged plumbing system from our kitchen froze because you refused all of my requests to move to Fiji so that we could be outside at least for a couple of days each winter without the fear of freezing our lips off. And because we can’t, you know, fix things, we were using your hair dryer to warm a century old pipe and in doing so, you happened to find a door that you thought led to Narnia but instead led to an old coal chute and in the coal chute you found what looks to be a…person. We don’t
think
it’s the Wicked Witch but we’re not totally sure.”

I stared at him for a long moment. I loved him so much it made my heart hurt sometimes. But there were other times when I wanted nothing more than to stick my foot in his giant, sarcastic mouth.

“I’m just gonna ask if they can send an officer over,” I said. “Continue thawing.”

BOOK: The Murder Pit
12.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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