Author's Note: After reading so many amazing CM stories on this site, I was inspired to write one of my own based on a crazy idea. So, here it is. There won't be any romance, rather, it'll be strong friendship between Emily and JJ. I hope you'll enjoy reading.
Disclaimer: I do not own CM, its plots or its characters.
"Some places speak distinctly. Certain dank gardens cry aloud for a murder; certain old houses demand to be haunted; certain coasts are set apart for shipwrecks." ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
"Emily, are you sure we're heading in the right direction?" JJ asked. Her voice laden with uncertainty.
Peering out the side window, she was met with the same, unchanging scenery of thick bushes and mammoth trees with blanched snow concealing most of their natural, earthy colors. It would have been a beauteous sight to behold if not for how incredibly lifeless they seemed - their branches were stretched out frigidly in the air and the leaves appeared to be frozen in place. The only time they were disturbed was when the SUV whizzed past them and created a wave of raging, crackling rustles. Snow flakes were thrown off of their resting place violently while some of the more delicate branches snapped off from their main stem, leaving behind a trail of devastation in its wake.
An hour had gone by since the two of them left the local police station and made their way towards the witness' property located on the outskirt of town, but they appeared to be nowhere near their destination. They had been traveling untroubled on the highway for the first quarter of the hour before Emily directed the SUV onto a deserted, undivided route completely surrounded by dense snow-covered forests just off the main road. It was then that JJ started to get antsy.
God, how she hated the woods. The mere thought of it was enough to send goosebumps throughout her whole body. As of now, she was writhing uncomfortably in her seat as they continued to drive deeper and deeper into the midst of the woods. They were on the road long enough to notice there was no sign, no streetlight and no power line for miles and miles. They weren't sure when it happened, but a mist had appeared out of the blue to obscure part of their view of the road ahead, which only served to make the situation looked a whole lot worse. And to top everything off, there was also a deranged serial killer out there on the loose, making the entire scenario a perfect plot for a slasher film.
Looking back now, JJ couldn't believe it had actually taken her this long to voice her concern.
"Yeah, I'm following every one of Sheriff Sheridan's directions exactly as he wrote it," Emily assured as she took another look at the rather crumpled piece of notebook paper she had clutched in one hand, steering the wheel with the other. There was a sketch of a simple, tiny map in the middle with small, scribbled words littered all around it. By the looks of it, they should be coming to another turn soon.
"Do you think he could have gotten them wrong?" JJ asked hesitantly. A trace of fretfulness had slipped into her voice, despite her efforts to remain nerveless. She had never been one to question the knowledge of the locals and she felt awful to be questioning the Sheriff of all people. But they had been on the road for far too long with no end in sight, so the suspicion wasn't without any reason.
"I highly doubt it. The directions he gave are pretty specific; every crossroad, every turn," Emily replied. She glanced towards JJ, who was spotting a pensive expression, for a brief moment then turned her attention back onto the foggy road, keeping a keen lookout for the bend that was about to come. "And besides, he's lived in Black Forest his whole life, practically knows every inch in and around the town."
"I hope so," JJ sighed as she leaned the back of her head onto the headrest behind, producing a soft thump. "It's just, we're in the middle of nowhere... With no cell service."
"Don't worry, JJ," Emily said. She understood where JJ was coming from since she'd had her own reservations. There was something more than just insecurity for JJ though, and she knew it - she knew that JJ harbored fear for the woods. With a warm smile adorning her features, Emily tried to relieve some of JJ's anxiety. "There's still some way left to go. I'm sure we'll get there."
- - - v - - -
After traveling for a further twenty minutes, they reached their destination at last. The mist, which had accompanied and inconvenienced them on the journey for the past hour or so, dissipated almost as mysteriously as it had appeared. The first thing that greeted them was a frozen, partially rusted, reddish mailbox with the name 'Mullins' inscribed on side of it.
"Well, finally," Emily breathed out, cautiously driving the SUV into the property at a decelerated speed.
The end of the road was joined to a snow-clad greyish driveway that led them around a dull, white courtyard. At the center of it stood an aged, dried-out fountain, with cracks here and there, surrounded by bushes. A few of the shrubs had already wilted completely to leave their branches naked and exposed to the harsh winter, although most of them seemed to be striving on in the frosty weather with their leaves still visibly in their healthy green state despite being blanketed by snow flakes for the most part. Plain as they looked, they were well-groomed. Encompassing the courtyard were more of the same plants, just much taller.
"How can anyone live in a place this isolated?" JJ questioned incredulously, shaking her head as she did so. "I know I certainly can't. Making our way here once is already punishing enough for me. I can't imagine having to travel back and forth on that ridiculously long route just to get supplies."
"Not to mention human contact," Emily added after humming in agreement. She brought the SUV to a halt right in front of the front porch of the manor and switched off the ignition. The engine continued to boom and vibrate for a couple of seconds longer before dying out entirely and silence swooped in promptly to take over, filling the air with its dead calm.
It was like the deep breath before the plunge. For the next few moments, none of them spoke. They were just looking, listening, taciturnly studying everything around them.
When there was no sign of movement and no disruption to the eerie placidity, the two agents shared a look. Emily gave JJ what looked like an apologetic shrug before pushing the car door open and stepped out into the cold. Her boots landed on the snowy driveway with a thud and she trudged through the accumulated layer of snow over to JJ's side.
JJ, on the other hand, sagged her shoulders in resignation before following Emily's lead and exited the vehicle.
Feeling her bare hands beginning to freeze in the cold weather, Emily rubbed her palms together to generate some requisite warmth until she remembered the pair of gloves she had stuffed in her coat pocket. The gloves weren't as thick as she liked them to be, but they would have to suffice.
"It's awfully quiet," she said in a volume barely louder than a whisper, as if she was afraid to disturb the quietness. There was no sound of leaves rustling, no sound of wind blowing and no sound whatsoever from the vicinity or the distant. She would bet that if a needle dropped a mile away, she could hear it.
A chill traveled down the length of JJ's spine, making her body twitched involuntarily. She wasn't sure whether it was a reaction to the cold or the fact that she was unnerved by the silence. She automatically wrapped her coat tighter around her body and then folded her arms across her chest.
The two of them stood side by side at the bottom of the steps that led up to the porch, staring up at the manor before them. It was plain white, saved for some areas being browned or slightly blackened by dirt. Parts of the wall, especially at the corners, had been chipped off to reveal the more unattractive grey-colored cement beneath. The roof was covered with heaps of snow that had cascaded down from the sky, blending in nicely with its albescent tiles. Even with its considerable size, the manor was highly unremarkable in terms of its appearance, though it did give off a rather inimical vibe.
Just as Emily made a move to take the first step up the stairs, she was abruptly stopped by a hand gripping her upper arm and a soft voice calling her name. She turned her head back and was met with a pair of imploring blue eyes. With a worried frown creasing her smooth forehead, she gently held the elbow of the hand on her arm and asked, "what is it, JJ?"
"Do you think it's a good idea?" JJ questioned. Her words vaporizing into the still air as soon as they had escaped from her mouth. The apprehension that she was struggling with on the inside was clearly displayed across her face. Her eyes darted to the side briefly before reestablishing eye contact with Emily, who was looking at her expectantly with concern swirling in her brown eyes. "I mean, doesn't this place creep you out a little? 'Cause it's creeping me out, a lot. There's something off about this place. I can feel it."
"I know, JJ. Believe me, I'm just as uncomfortable about it as you are. But I don't think we have a choice here. We can't get any reception, we're miles off the highway and hours away from the town. The sky's getting dark soon, I'm thinking we should just get this done and over with so that we can get the hell outta here," Emily explained, even though there was nothing else she wanted more at that moment than to get into the SUV with JJ and drive away – away from the silence, away from the lifelessness. "So... What do you say?"
JJ hesitated for a few seconds, pondering over what Emily had said before sighing, "alright, but promise me we'll stay together no matter what happens, okay?"
At hearing that, Emily gave JJ a reassuring smile and nodded, "I promise."
To Be Continued...