Characters: Dee, Ryo, Drake
Word Count: 2593
Summary: A body has been found in a cellar, so Dee and Ryo are sent to investigate, but everything may not be as it seems, and the two detectives find themselves in a situation that defies explanation.
Written For: spook_me 2021, using FAKE, Skeleton, and this pic.
Disclaimer: I don’t own FAKE, or the characters. They belong to the wonderful Sanami Matoh.
A/N: Set after the manga.
Dee wasn’t entirely sure this could be classed as a murder scene, because that implied the presence of a body, or at least parts of one. Then again, technically what they had here WAS part or a body, there just wasn’t any blood or the traditional cold, dead, sometimes decaying flesh he was accustomed to dealing with. In that respect, it made the whole scene a lot less disgusting than usual, but somehow more disturbing. It was creeping him out, and it didn’t help that his pragmatic, down to earth partner seemed to be finding his discomfort highly amusing.
He shot Ryo a wounded glare. “You’re laughin’ at me; that’s not nice.”
“I wasn’t, not really, it’s just… I don’t get why you find skeletons so creepy.”
That was all they had, a skeleton, a bunch of obscenely bare bones, but it wasn’t one of the wired together kind you might find at a medical school or a museum, and it wasn’t the ancient, long-buried kind, exposed through excavation or the weather, and encrusted with mud and dirt. This one was just lying there on the stained concrete floor of a cellar beneath a crumbling row of tenements that were due to be demolished in a couple of months, looking for all the world like someone lying down for a rest. It was jarring.
It had been discovered by a group of college students looking for a good place off campus to hold a Halloween party. When they’d come across it, they’d initially thought it would make a great prop for their party. But then they’d taken a closer look and called the police because, while the skeleton didn’t look like it had just been dug up, they were pretty sure it was the real thing as there appeared to be tatters of dried flesh and even a few strands of long hair still attached to the skull. They’d begun to wonder if maybe a murder victim had been dumped down there and the bones stripped of flesh by rats and other predators.
That theory didn’t hold up too well for two seasoned detectives. Predators would have scattered the bones as they fed, even dragged some away with them, but that wasn’t the case here; as far as they could tell, considering they weren’t experts on human anatomy, the skeleton was complete, right down to the small bones of the fingers and toes. There were two or three teeth missing, but maybe they’d been removed while the person was still alive, dental extractions for one reason or another, or knocked out in a fight.
Dee turned away from the macabre sight to stare at his lover. “It’s almost Halloween and there’s a whole skeleton in a basement, just lyin’ there. How d’you NOT find that creepy?”
Ryo shrugged. “It’s just bones; we’ve all got them.”
“Yeah, but we keep our bones on the inside, where they belong. They shouldn’t be all… bare like that.” Dee waved one hand in the direction of the skeleton.
“Bare?” Ryo snickered. “You’re bothered because the bones are naked? You’d be happier if they were wearing a suit, maybe? Appropriately dressed for polite company?”
Dee scowled. “No, dickhead. That’s not what I meant. It should at least have the decency to be properly buried, instead of just lyin’ around where anyone can see it.”
“I doubt that it was given much of a choice in the matter. You want to cite it for littering, or causing a public nuisance? Although it’s not exactly in public. If those college kids hadn’t been looking for a creepy party venue, it might not have been found until the tenements were demolished.”
The demolition crews always checked inside buildings before knocking them down, making sure there weren’t any homeless people, drunks, or drug addicts sheltering in them.
“Yeah, and because of that we’re the ones stuck investigatin’ what might not even be a crime.”
“You don’t think dumping a body in a basement constitutes a crime?”
“I guess it depends who it is. Maybe whoever it was came down here lookin’ for somewhere to sleep and just… died.” Dee caught Ryo’s look and sighed. “Yeah, I don’t buy that either. No clothes, no personal effects… He could’a been robbed I guess, but then we’re back to it bein’ a crime. Fine, you win.”
Crouching down and snapping on a latex glove, Ryo studied the skeleton in the yellow beam of his flashlight, briefly touching one of the leg bones, careful not to disturb anything. “Feels solid enough so it can’t be that old. I wonder who this was. Maybe they still have friends and family somewhere, waiting for them to come home. It’s sad.” He pushed himself to his feet and removed the glove, pocketing it. “Guess we’d better call it in, have a crime scene team sent out, and the coroner to collect the body.”
“Coroner? Not like we need anyone’s help confirmin’ this dude’s dead; we can see that for ourselves. And there’s not much left for an autopsy,” Dee pointed out.
“The coroner still might be able to determine cause of death, maybe there are marks on the bones from a weapon.” Ryo stretched the kinks out of his back and yawned; it was late, probably getting on for midnight by now, and he was tired. Third shift was always the worst, and tonight they were working a longer shift than usual, from eight in the evening until six the following morning. Moving away from the remains on the floor, he pulled out his phone and turned it on, frowning at it. “Damn, can’t get a signal down here, the basement must be blocking it somehow. I’ll have to go back upstairs.”
“I’ll go with. Far as I can see there’s only one way in or out, and there’s less chance of us disturbin’ any evidence if we’re not wanderin’ around down here.”
Ryo grinned back over his shoulder. “Sure you wouldn’t rather stay and keep our friend there company?” He was already halfway up the worn concrete steps.
“Screw that. He’s pretty much past needin’ company anyway.”
Laughing, Ryo ascended the rest of the way as Dee started up behind him, but at the top…
“Shit, the door’s stuck!”
“That’s not frickin’ funny, babe.”
“I’m not trying to be funny, I think it’s locked!”
Curiously, instead of being made of wood like most cellar doors, this one was metal, tarnished and rusting but still remarkably solid. It was supposed to open outwards, but although the handle turned and Ryo leaned his full weight on it, he couldn’t shift it.
“Why the fuck did ya shut it in the first place?” Dee came up alongside his partner, putting his shoulder to the cold, pitted surface, adding his strength to Ryo’s, bracing his legs, and shoving as hard as he could.
“I didn’t. I went down first, and you followed.”
“Well I didn’t shut it; I’m not an idiot.”
“And yet you were happy enough to accuse me of being one.”
Dee offered up a sheepish grin. “Yeah, sorry ‘bout that. I wasn’t thinkin’.”
“I noticed. Apology accepted.”
“But if neither of us shut it…” Dee trailed off; the skeleton was spooky enough as it was without them getting trapped in the cellar with it.
“A gust of wind probably blew it closed.” It was a blustery night, the wind chasing tatters of cloud across the face of a moon that was just past full.
“You’d think we would’a heard it. Maybe those kids stuck around and decided to play a prank on us. Hell, maybe this whole thing is nothin’ more than a prank and it’s not even a real skeleton.”
“It looked real enough for the uniforms to call us in after they checked it out, and while I’m no expert on bones, there’s nothing about it that screams fake.”
“Yeah, I know; looks real enough to me too,” Dee admitted. “Maybe a little too real this close to Halloween.”
Ryo drew back a bit, playing his flashlight around the edges of the door, where it fitted tightly into the frame, trying to see what might be keeping it from opening, but there was nothing visible.
“Let’s give it another try but concentrate our efforts on this edge.” He indicated the side where the latch was, reaching out to turn the handle. “Ready?”
Dee nodded. “On three. One. Two. Three…” They pushed as hard as they could, legs and backs straining, but to no avail.
“Shit, did someone lock it from the outside? Was there even a lock?”
“I don’t know,” Ryo replied. “The door was open when we got here, I never saw the other side of it. Maybe there’re bolts or something.”
“So what now? If we can’t open the door and we can’t get a signal on our phones, we’re screwed!”
“We’ll be fine, everyone back at the precinct knows where we’ve gone. When we don’t come back or call in, someone will come looking for us. We’ll just have to wait to be rescued.”
“Great, we’re gonna be the laughin’ stock of the whole two-seven. It’ll be just like that time we got ourselves trapped on the roof of a skyscraper in the pourin’ rain. Why does this stuff always happen to us?”
“It doesn’t always. Ted’s the one who drove his car into quick drying cement, and it was Drake who dropped his handcuffs down a drain, then got his arm stuck trying to fish them back out.”
“True. Thanks, babe; that makes me feel a whole lot better. So what now?”
“I suppose we go back down, do our job, take another look at the body, check the scene for evidence…” He grinned at Dee. “Or use your favourite strategy for passing the time and take a nap.”
“A nap, now there’s an idea! No chance of accidentally contaminatin’ evidence if we’re sleepin’. At least the floor’s dry. Might be a bit cold for sittin’ on, but we’ve been stuck in worse places. Least this time we’re outta the rain.”
They made their way back down the steps, shining their flashlights around the dark, windowless basement room, but aside from the skeleton, lying incongruously in the middle of the floor, it was empty. No broken furniture, no old toys, no piles of mouldering newspapers, not even a scattering of dry leaves or discarded trash, just a few traces of dust.
“Weird,” Dee said. “Like someone cleared the place out, swept the floor, then left old Bones there, lyin’ in state or somethin’.”
The chances of finding anything resembling evidence seemed practically non-existent. Even any footprints that might be lifted from the floor were more likely to belong to the teenagers, the two uniformed officers who’d responded to the initial call, or to Dee and Ryo themselves.
“That we can agree on. Someone’s obviously taken pains not to leave anything incriminating behind.”
“If you don’t count the skeleton, which seems pretty damn incriminatin’ to me. Okay, so now I guess we just wait for someone to notice we’re missin’ and come let us out.”
“Looks that way.” Ryo moved over to the wall and found a place to sit, just far enough from the bottom of the steps that anyone entering the cellar wouldn’t fall over him. “We should probably turn our flashlights off, conserve the batteries, just in case we need them later.”
“You want us to sit here in the dark with that just a few feet away?” Dee sounded horrified at the thought.
“Why not? Whoever it was, they’re dead, so I doubt they’ll bother us.”
“How ‘bout we just turn one flashlight off and keep the other one on?”
“Don’t tell me you’re scared of the dark,” Ryo teased.
“’Course not, but how d’we know there’s not a secret passageway somewhere down here? We don’t want anyone sneakin’ in and creepin’ up on us, maybe whoever killed our victim.”
Ryo inclined his head. “Doesn’t seem too likely, but I take your point. If we sit here in the dark and someone comes in with a flashlight, we’ll be blinded. Fine, leave yours on, but put it on its lowest setting. The batteries should last longer that way. Now sit down and try to relax.”
“I can tell ya right now, I’m not gonna be doin’ any nappin’.” Dee sank down beside his partner, back to the wall. Shuffling closer, he draped his arm around Ryo’s shoulders.
Ryo stiffened. “What’re you doing?”
“It’s chilly down here; we should huddle together, conserve body heat.”
“If that’s a euphemism for…”
Dee cut his lover off. “It’s not. I may be a hornball, but I draw the line at doin’ it in front of a skeleton. That’s just warped. Don’t know how long we’re gonna be stuck down here though, could be hours, so keepin’ ourselves warm is important.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“Good. Now that’s settled, you can nap if ya want; I’ll keep watch.”
“Yeah. Trapped in a basement with a creepy skeleton? No way am I closin’ my eyes; I know the kinds of things that can happen in situations like this.”
Ryo laughed softly. “You’ve watched way too many horror movies.”
“And you haven’t watched enough. If ya had, you’d know I’m right.”
“I’ll let you protect me from the scary skeleton then.” Ryo shifted into a slightly less uncomfortable position, rested his head on his lover’s shoulder, and closed his eyes, tired enough to sleep just about anywhere.
“Sweet dreams, babe.”
“Mm.” As there was nothing they could do right now, for once Ryo didn’t need to feel guilty about sleeping on the job. It didn’t take him long to drift off.
As he listened to his lover’s slow, peaceful breathing, Dee tried to relax, but it wasn’t easy. Time ticked by so slowly, and aside from an occasional snuffle from Ryo, the silence was complete. If not for the warmth and solidity of his partner pressed against his side, it would have been easy for Dee to believe he was completely alone, that there wasn’t another living person within miles. It reminded him uncomfortably of his first encounter with ghosts, back when he was just a kid at Mother Lane’s orphanage, trying to prove to some of the older boys that he was brave enough to hang out with them.
Dee shuddered. Why’d he have to think about that? Now he wouldn’t be able to get it out of his mind, and it stirred up a host of other unwelcome memories, of the case with the boogeyman back in his uniform days, and of the ghost at the hotel in England a few years ago, the one Ryo had scoffed about when Dee and Bikky had both tried to tell him about it. The one that may well have helped to save Ryo’s life.
Not that Ryo would ever entertain such a possibility. Dee loved him, no question, but he’d never understand how his lover could be such a confirmed sceptic when it came to ghosts and other paranormal phenomena. Even now, he found Dee’s wariness amusing. Okay, so maybe a pile of old bones shouldn’t be scary, but there was just something off about the whole situation. The otherwise empty basement, the metal door that wouldn’t open, and should have made some kind of sound when it closed, the way the skeleton itself was laid out on its back, arms and legs straight, every bone in place, the way it glowed in the dark…
TBC in Part 2