Shallow Graves

Three years ago, when I first moved to Metropolis, I uncovered a number of things about the area of the city known as 'Suicide Slum'. As some readers may know, I lived in The Slum for around a year – it's a fascinating place, multi-cultural, multi-faith, diverse…shunned.

A few months after I arrived, the area came under the attention of competitive billionaires Lex Luthor and Glen Glenmorgan. Both were keen to rejuvenate what many considered to be 'an eyesore', to bring it inline with the rest Metropolis in a bid to turn it in to the 'City of Tomorrow'. Both were keen to create new living areas of the up and coming Metropolitans, the 'new gentry'. Both ignored what was already there.

Money, usually, cuts through red tape like a hot knife through butter, but there are a number of factors which slow down the speed at which zonal regeneration can take place; one such factor being the discovery of shallow graves.

Shallow graves, in a general sense, are graves which are hastily dug, usually by murderers. Shallow graves in The Slum are communal graves where the children are buried – where shattered families who cannot afford a plot in a cemetery…share an area with others.

Several shallow graves were found, of which only two were known to and used by the families of The Slum.

The following account is of an investigation which took place three years ago; it is only now that the gagging order has been lifted and some light can be shone on a dark aspect of this city.

Lucas Marshall often encouraged people to call him 'Vlad'. Hardly anyone ever gave it a second thought but my curiosity got the better of me. When I was first introduced to him, a week after I moved to Metropolis, I asked if he liked to use the name because of an ancestral connection or because of a desire for a Gothic identity – suffice to say, he didn't take too kindly to either of those suggestions.

The tenement he lived in primarily housed people from Eastern Europe – there were Muslims, Christians and 'proud Gypsies' – and, according to his landlord, he had paid his rent two years upfront for the past six years. One may think that odd but one thing about The Slum is that it does not let you go very easily, and some choose to embrace that fact.

Soon after moving in, I heard rumours (from many and varied sources) of a 'golem'. Not the ring-bearing kind (different spelling), but a much more fearsome kind. Traditionally, golems are protectors but this 'golem' was a predator. Of children.

My investigations uncovered fourteen child-molesters, two child-traffickers and three murderers – two of which were no longer any physical threat to anyone but, in a bid for justice, I provided the police with the evidence I had collated – but none of them synched up with the accounts of the 'golem'.

At the time, I had only gone back seven years in the scope of my investigations an, at that point, there were 212 'missing children', of which 91 were unaccounted for. So far I had uncovered:

74 children had been abducted and trafficked, of which 33 were now deceased, 11 were being used as drug mules in Mexico and Colombia, and the rest were being used by various fetishists across the country. (As a result of the investigations, all 41 were recovered and given expert care by various foundations and, currently, five are preparing to go to college.)

47 children (it is strange how these numbers work out) were the victims of the aforementioned murderers.

91, however, were unaccounted for.

91 were found in seven shallow graves. Each grave contained a part of each of the 91.

Each grave was still being used.

Four new children were reported missing.

Each child had disappeared while attending after-school religious sessions in different buildings of The Slum.

Lucas Marshall had been seen with one of the missing children a few days ago.

Lucas Marshall was missing.

Perhaps I had been 'overzealous' at the time but I kicked his door down and barged into his apartment (almost breaking my ankle in doing so). What I uncovered…was nothing. His place was clearly lived in, and there was the stale (and, as some women say, male) smell, along with dirty laundry, scattered books, and a partially filled bin; but nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing, until I spotted something typical to many a detective story – an area of flooring near a wall which was slightly worn down as a result of something being moved over it repeatedly.

A false wall, and a passage way secreted between a series of apartments and leading down to the basement. The basement seemed to be another dead end, if it hadn't been for a series of bricks which were conspicuously missing the moss which was the fauna of the rest of the basement.

Another passageway was revealed, which led to the old sewers underneath The Slum, but which also revealed a network linking up to the temples, synagogues, mosques and prayers halls located throughout The Slum. A network no one knew about, and which had been created over the past decade.

Sewers are disorientating; sounds are distorted, enhanced, altered…and the smell…

I found Marshall in a massive 'ante-chamber'; the four children kneeling around him, hypnotised. He was naked and smeared with various kinds of goo, and chanting in a dozen languages.

I broke his jaw.

It took three days for the children to be brought out of their hypnotised state, and even that was only because of the efforts of a young woman from out of state who offered to help.

Marshall was handed over to the police and I provided them with the evidence I had collated. His jaw needed surgery and he was placed under guard at Barts hospital, from where he went missing.

Lucas Marshall's body was found on the corner of Swan St and Cable St, almost above the ante-chamber, with a wooden stake driven through his heart. Post-mortem examination, along with other forensic analysis concluded that he had committed suicide and the stake in the heart was post-death.

Certain folklore and superstitious beliefs hold that it is only by driving a stake through the heart that the ghost of a murderer is prevented from returning to Earth to plague the living. It is further believed that even if the spirit is able to free itself it will be bound to remain at the crossroads.

No one knows how he escaped the hospital; no one knows where he committed suicide; no one knows who found his body and how drove the stake through his heart, nor who placed his body at that junction.

No one knows whether he was later buried or cremated.

Marshall claimed, in journals I was later given access to, to be 231 years old. What I do know is that he murdered at least 231 children in three countries.

The extent of the hypnotic state of the rescued children may provide some solace to the parents, siblings and family of the 231 – they could not remember anything other than being at peace, and it is hoped the others were in a similar state when Marshall took their lives.