HM-29

Devane Donely Investigations

Many words have described Anna Devane over the years but passive was not one of them. Until today. Her combined WSB training and life experience had seen her through many a dangerous situations. Until today.

Today, she was in unknown territory. No training had ever prepared her for the predicament she faced. She willed her body to unmoving relaxation while her mind sped through scenarios and solutions at a hundred miles an hour.

Every few seconds she made vows to herself. I will always have my gun within touching distance. I will never leave my gun in my purse locked in my car. I will stay far, far away from rodents and animals in general. Project Wee One will be top priority. I will mount a fire axe next to the fire extinguisher. I will get the exterminator in here monthly. Life is too short to waste - fantasy night every other weekend. Mother and daughter chats once a week.

Her feet and ankles bore more and more weight. Her knees rubbed against each other. The snake coiled its way up her still body. With each encirclement, she was tightly secured and compressed.

Arms crossed over her chest, Anna kept her head up. Her eyes were fixed on the far wall. She kept her breathing even somehow.

The snake's head brushed the underside of her left elbow. It was completing another circle. This time around her waist.

Seconds ticked by.

The phone rang. With supreme effort, Anna stopped herself from flinching at the sound.

The phone rang again. The snake seemed to sense the vibrations in the air. Its coils tightened causing Anna to gasp.

Another ring. The coils shifted. Higher. Tighter.

Stop ringing, Anna thought. Please stop ringing!


Catacombs under Kelly's Diner

The heavy duty police issue flashlight barely cut through the gloom of the catacombs. Robert aimed the beam all around him as he waited for the rest of his handpicked force to descend down the rope from Kelly's basement.

"This … this is considered hazard pay, right?" asked Frisco sidling up to the Commissioner.

Robert pointed at a rusting pipe running deeper into the catacombs above their heads. "Put a glow stick on that one every five yards. At least we'll know where we came in."

"And that means an extra check."

"I haven't decided yet," murmured Robert.

"What's to decide? Look at us!" Frisco gestured at the bright yellow rubber waders he wore under the heavy fireman's coat. It had been an improvised mission garment. All the policemen wore the same outfit. Plus, they had backpacks loaded with first aid kits, bottles of water and ammunition for the guns they carried. Some officers had coils of rope or an axe hanging from their packs.

"Depends on the danger. Pretty boring so far. No rats around here," said Robert.

"They're all upstairs," said Frisco drily fastening a glowing green on a pipe bracket.

"No snakes either."

"Yet," finished Frisco.

Robert cleared his throat. "Jerry's people takes care of the rats. The snakes are ours. Attempt to capture the smaller snake if it poses no threat to you. If you see a really big snake, kill it dead. I don't care how." He looked hard at Frisco. "No heroics from anyone."

"Don't look at me, Batman," said Frisco.

Robert pressed the comm button on his walkie talkie. "Lewis, we're heading out."

"Copy that, Robert," said Lewis over a static-laden connection. "No answer at the PI office. I called twice. I left a message you had to cancel lunch with Anna."

"Probably out on a case. Thanks, Guy." Robert slipped the walkie talkie back inside the large pocket of his fireman's coat.

Jerry turned on the light of his miner's helmet. "All right, let's go. Let's get this done."

Keith walked in front of Jerry. Headphones covered his ears and he held out a microphone on a long pole in front of him.

Robert walked beside Jerry. His flashlight aimed further down the rocky corridor. "Which way?"

"Towards the most noise," said Jerry.

"I don't hear anything," said Robert.

"He does." Jerry pointed at his brother. He tapped Keith's shoulder twice.

Keith nodded. "Agitated. Scared. Left. Next corridor."

With every step, Robert's unease increased. There was something he was missing. That thought gnawed at his insides making him uncharacteristically jittery. He looked at the spotlight of his flashlight against the gray and brown catacomb walls.

It's too small for this place. I want … I need more light, he thought. It feels like the walls are closing in. More light. More light.


WLPC Television Studio

The scent of the rat catcher's concoction did not dissipate. To Tiffany's sensitive nose, the smell got worse and worse by the hour. The air in the studio was stifling from the gallons of fragrances everyone had doused themselves in. Tiffany had left her small bottle of lotion at Makeup. When she came back, it was empty.

She pulled out the chair from behind the set's news desk. She screamed. "Rat!"

The rat, brown with an unnaturally long pale tail, looked up at her and bared its teeth.

The boom mike operator pushed the chair away. Perhaps it was the motion or the sound of casters wheeling on wood floors that propelled a dozen rats to stream out from under the desk.

"More rats!" Tiffany ran.

Several studio staffers brandished brooms and were closing in on the rats.

"Don't touch them! Sean said to not go near them!" yelled Tiffany.

Her assistant Mike stopped moving. "Why not?"

Tiffany thought fast. "He … he said they were infected. They made him sick."

Overhead in the production booth, Tiffany could see the director and producer moving around frantically. They left the booth at a run slamming the door behind them.

"Rats in the booth!" yelled the director.

The producer, Sally, cradled a bloodied hand. "They attacked my hand!" She fell to her knees vomiting. Her entire body began to convulse.


Devane Donely Investigations

Felicia climbed through the window into Anna's office. She had Anna's bag slung over one shoulder. She was relieved to find the office door was still closed. She spied some rats squeezing under the door.

She hurried to the door opening it just enough to peek out. She felt sick at the sight before her.

Eyes closed, Anna lay on the floor not moving even as rats scampered over her body. The coils of the snake covered her midsection and chest. The head was nowhere to be seen.

"Oh, God, oh God," whispered Felicia. She opened Anna's purse and pulled the gun out. She moved the safety switch from on to off position.

She held the gun in the approved firing position that Sean had taught her at the range. She took a deep breath and calmed herself. Pressing her back against the door, she moved backwards.

The door opened slowly rusty hinges squeaking. Anna's eyes opened wide.

So intent was she on getting into the room that Felicia didn't notice how quiet the rats had become. Or how still they were.

Was Anna moving her head side to side? Felicia couldn't tell. She moved into the room cautiously. Her eyes scanned for the snake's head.

Where was it?