The Third Deadly Sin
Four turtle brothers and their human friend perched atop a building in an aging residential neighborhood in New York City.
Up and down the street were indicators that the area was about to undergo a transformation; several buildings had already been removed, leaving empty grass lots. Still others were destined for demolition, including the one they were currently studying.
The aging brownstone mansion was covered in archaic stonework, the once beautiful and unique artistry now crumbling into ruins. The sidewalk leading to the front steps was jagged and uneven; the areaway in front of the stairs that lead down to the basement was blocked with debris.
A security fence had been erected around the structure to keep the curious, the homeless, and the mischievous out of the dangerous interior. It was no doubt in as much disrepair as the exterior, and therefore wrought with hazards.
"Well, it certainly looks haunted," Mikey said as he eyed the triple story structure.
"I'm sure it is, Mikey," Don said with a straight face. "There's probably a ghost in every room."
"I saw a movie once where there was a ghost in every room of an old house dude," Mikey said, his eyes wide. "They weren't friendly either."
"Can it, Mikey," Raph snapped. "There ain't any ghosts."
"Then how did that rumor get started?" Mikey asked. "Hey Casey, didn't Angel tell you that everyone who still lives around here thinks the place is haunted?"
"Yeah," Casey said, lifting his mask and setting it on top of his head. "Her grandma has a friend who lives nearby. She told Angel ta stay away from the place 'cause ever since the new owner bought it and decided ta tear it down there's been all kinds of weird noises coming out of there at night."
"The police haven't been called?" Don asked.
"They been called all right," Casey said. "In fact, they're getting ta where they don't bother ta come out anymore. Some historical group says the place should be renovated and preserved 'cause somebody famous lived here once. The guy that bought it is one of April's regulars and he says the only way he's gonna get his money back out of the place is ta demolish it."
"And the police think the preservationists are behind the strange noises," Don guessed.
"Ya' got it," Casey said. "The owner says the police should go in and arrest somebody for trespassing but every time the cops show they can't find anyone. They don't much like going inside 'cause ya' gotta stay on these planks they got laid down everywhere if ya' don't wanna fall through the floor. The only time the neighbors hear anything is at night, so the cops can't see shit when they do go inside."
"That means we ain't gonna be able ta see shit either," Raph griped.
"Ever hear of an invention called a flashlight, Raph?" Mikey teased. "We aren't gonna be in there very long anyway, right Leo?"
Leo was staring at the building, his sharp eyes running over every bit of the exterior within his view.
Rather than answer Mikey's question, Leo asked one of his own. "You were supposed to meet the owner here today, Casey? He didn't call April to cancel and he didn't show up?"
"I waited around for three hours," Casey told him. "April kept tryin' ta reach the guy but he never answered his phone. Granted April don't have ta call him that often, but he is one of her best clients and he has a crush on her. He never misses one of her calls."
"But this time she bought something from him, right?" Mikey asked.
"Yeah, she spent a pretty penny on it too. Some kinda chandelier that's hanging in the foyer. He showed her a picture of it and she just so happens ta have another guy who's been trying ta find one exactly like it. It's an antique and if ya wanna know more about it you'll have ta ask April, 'cause all I do is lug the stuff for her."
"So why don't she wait until she can get hold of the building's owner ta get her hands on that fancy antique? Why are we down here in the middle of the night?" Raph asked.
"The demolition crew is coming tomorrow ta rip this place down is why," Casey said. "The security guys wouldn't let me in without the owner there ta say it was okay. April don't know what happened ta the owner, but she has a bill of sale for that chandelier and ya' guys know how she gets when she wants somethin."
"There is also the little matter of strange noises coming out of that building at night," Leo interjected.
"What do strange noises have ta do with anything, Leo?" Raph asked. "I thought we were here ta make sure Casey didn't break his neck tryin' ta rescue April's junk for her."
"Do you remember where we were when we were battling Bishop's fake aliens?" Leo asked.
The abrupt subject change took Raph by surprise and he had to think about the question. Donny answered it for him.
"It was just a couple of blocks from here," Don said.
"There was a large contingent of Bishop's creations trying to kidnap the president," Leo recalled for them. "During our fight we popped a lot of them and that goo they were made from seeped into the storm drains."
"And infected a whole lot of things, including Donny," Mikey said.
"Yeah, then Bishop sprayed the cure over the city and into the sewers," Raph said. "Problem solved."
"Suppose the cure didn't make it into an abandoned, closed up house, but one of the infected creatures did?" Leo asked.
"Ya' think one of those things is holed up inside that house?" Casey asked incredulously. "What would it eat?"
Leo hadn't taken his eyes off the house. "A lot of people have gone missing in this area; Donny looked it up for me before we left the lair. The owner of this house is now missing too."
"Oh shit," Raph said, his voice low.
"Bishop's ruse happened quite a while ago, Leo," Don said. "The people started to go missing recently and the noises didn't start until this construction work did."
"Maybe whatever it is was dormant," Mikey said. When they all looked at him, he asked, "What? You guys like hibernation better? Maybe all the moving around inside the house woke something up."
"Whatever is in there doesn't seem to be able to get out," Leo said. "Or it doesn't want to. If the house is torn down it won't have any choice but to leave and that puts the city in danger. If it's one of Bishop's mistakes, it could start another epidemic. People will die before Bishop recognizes what's happening and sprays his cure again."
"So we're going in there ta try ta find some monster that probably ain't real friendly and destroy it?" Raph asked. "Sounds like fun ta me."
"We need to be careful not to spread the mutation again," Don warned. "Splattering something that's mutated will lead to insects and rodents ingesting the infected remains."
"And then they'll mutate," Mikey finished for him. "It's a vicious cycle dude."
"That's why I asked Don to bring some of our hunting gear from the last time we fought these things," Leo told them. "We need to capture it and put into a containment tube. Don and Leatherhead built a duplicate of the one we had before."
"Uh, guys," Casey interrupted. "Ya' ain't forgettin' that I still gotta find that chandelier for April right? 'Cause if I show up empty handed, she's gonna slam the door in my face and I'll have ta crash on your couch."
"No, no," Raph said as he rushed into speech. "We ain't forgettin' about April's trinket. Ya' ain't gonna have ta stay at the lair."
"That's good, 'cause all of your stuff's always busted," Casey said.
"Let's get over there," Leo said.
Scurrying down to the street, the group hugged the shadows as they waited for Don's assessment.
"No cameras," Don said. "Probably an expense the owner didn't want to have. The fence isn't electrified and the posted security sign is from a company who drives by at intervals rather than leaving anyone on the premises. We can scale the fence if you'll cut the wire along the top, Leo."
"If I do that, your drive-by security guard will notice and call the police," Leo said.
"Jump over?" Mikey asked.
"I can't jump as high as you guys," Casey reminded him.
"Besides that, we still have to get anything that's in there back out again," Leo said. "Donny can pick the lock on the gate and snap it shut behind us."
Digging into his duffel, Don pulled out a small kit and said, "Not a problem guys."
Leo signaled for the others to remain hidden and then he crossed the street with Don. Squatting next to his brother, Leo kept watch while Don worked open the huge padlock on the chain that kept the gate closed.
Once he had it open, Leo whistled lowly and the other three joined them, slipping through the gate quickly and moving into the shadow of the building. Don secured the padlock in exactly the position he'd found it in and joined his brothers.
"Are we going in the front door?" Raph asked.
Leo shook his head. "The street light shines directly on it and it looks warped anyway. I don't think anyone has gone through there in ages. Let's work our way around the side and find another way in."
Following him, the rest of the team crouched low, aware that they would be visible to anyone who drove past. Weeds grew tall from what was once a manicured stretch of ground and the bushes that had been planted next to the house were overgrown and thick.
The ground was littered with bricks and refuse that had been tossed through windows, making the area a veritable minefield for bare feet.
"Watch your footing," Leo warned them.
"Thanks Fearless," Raph grumbled. "You're so good at stating the obvious."
Near the back of the house a third story window stood wide open, a chute for garbage attached to it. Leo contemplated the brickwork for a few moments and Don, as though reading his mind, tried gripping the bricks that stood out in an uneven pattern.
"These seem fairly solid," Don said. "The ones near the roof will have worn more from exposure to the elements because the gutters are gone. We should go slow."
"Looks like we're climbing, Casey," Raph said with a grin.
"Great," Casey replied, finding a handhold and beginning his ascent.
Halfway up, one of the bricks under Mikey's hand slid out of the wall and he lunged for another, digging his toes into the wall to keep from falling. It was the only mishap and the five of them finally crawled one by one in through the open window.
"If we locate a mutated monster in here, we're going to have to find a better way to get it out," Don said.
"We will," Leo said. He was looking around the room they were in. It was of a fairly good size and had probably been a bedroom at some point in its life.
There was a layer of thick plywood on the floor, an obvious safety measure to prevent workers from falling through. Raph stepped lightly across the wood until he reached an open door. Glancing out all he could see was darkness.
"Time ta bring out those flashlights," Raph said, "'cause all I can see is a whole lot of nothing."
Don handed out the high powered flashlights he'd brought with him and the group moved out into the hallway. Flashing their lights around the interior they could see that a central staircase rested between two long halls. Doors stood open on both sides and planks had been set at intervals to ensure safe footing.
Leo waved them to silence, signaling that Mike and Don would come with him while Raph and Casey were to go in the opposite direction.
Remaining on the plywood walkway, the two teams moved away from one another, each playing their lights into the various rooms as they came to them. Without their usual banter, the silence was eerie; there were no street sounds to break the dead weight of the quiet inside the old house.
All of the rooms were empty; furniture long gone and most everything else stripped from the walls, including trim work. Many of the rooms no longer had floors.
Meeting back up at the top of the staircase, Leo asked, "Anything?"
Raph shook his head. "Nada. Looks like they've done a lot of house cleaning up here; I doubt something trying ta stay unseen would be lurking around in these empty rooms."
"Somebody tell me why they're ripping up the floors?" Casey asked, perplexed.
"The old wooden floors that were built with the house are worth money," Don explained. "So is the old fashioned trim work around the doors. The owner is salvaging everything he can before the house is torn down."
"Don't tell April that," Casey said. "She'll be after me ta drag some more crap back ta the shop for her."
"That crap keeps a roof over your head ya' nut job," Raph reminded him.
"Let's check the second floor," Leo said. "Same procedure; stay quiet. I want to hear it before it hears us. And watch where your step, the banisters are gone and the stairs are iffy."
Mikey had said nothing since they entered the house. He was having a bad reaction to it, although the others seemed unaffected. His skin felt as if tiny pricks of static were dancing all over him, and the oppressive silence made his ear drums hurt from the weight of it.
Hoping that it was simply his imagination working overtime, Mikey followed Don as they moved single file down the dilapidated staircase. They were careful to place their feet nearest the wall, where the risers would hold their weight. It was also the one spot that didn't creak as they descended.
At one point Mikey's arm brushed the wall and he jerked away so fast he nearly lost his balance. The wall was squishy; rain had gotten inside and rotted the wood, giving mold a solid grip on the interior. His mouth pulled down in distaste, Mikey knew the first thing he was going to do when they got home was to take a long, hot shower.
The second floor was very similar to the first; except that facing the stairs was a wide opening that had once sported French doors.
Don waved his flashlight through the opening and whispered to Leo, "Looks like the library. They haven't finished plundering this room and it's pretty big. Should we go in?"
"How big? Does it need to be searched?" Leo asked in a low voice.
"There are free standing bookshelves on one side of the room and I can't see around them," Don said. "Something could be hiding."
Leo glanced down the hall towards where Raph and Casey had just gone into a room.
"You and Mikey go; stay together. I'll stand watch here to make sure nothing takes us by surprise," Leo said.
"No," Mikey hissed sharply. When his brothers looked at him, he said, "You guys have watched enough horror movies to know that the guy who stays by himself gets grabbed first. We have to stay together."
"No one is going to grab me, Michelangelo," Leo said. "Someone has to stay out here to watch your backs and keep an eye on Raph and Casey as well. If I see anything I'll call out and you do the same. Go on now."
Don touched his arm and started into the library, leaving Mikey with the decision to abandon Leo or let Don wander into a strange room by himself. Setting his mouth into a firm line of disapproval, Mikey went in after Don.
The planks didn't quite reach the side of the room where the bookshelves were, so Don put one foot onto the original flooring, settling some of his weight on it. When the floorboard creaked dangerously, he tried a different area until he found a solid spot.
"Stay right behind me and follow in my footsteps," Don told Mikey. "I'm going to walk across on the floor joists; they're still sound. I know the spacing that was used so we should be fine. Keep your eyes open."
"Okay," Mikey said, holding his flashlight out to his side to illuminate their way.
They spent several minutes walking through a small maze of bookshelves before concluding that nothing occupied the room other than spiders and water roaches. One of the latter flew right at Mikey's face when the light hit it, and Mikey batted it against the wall with his flashlight. The resulted smack as it splattered made his stomach curl in on itself.
"Let's go back," Don whispered, guiding Mikey towards the entrance.
When they stepped into the hall, Mikey saw Raph and Casey coming towards them. His grin of relief was cut short when Raph asked, "Where's Leo?"
Whipping around, Mikey realized that Leo had disappeared.