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the Team becomes murder suspects
Paranormal Adventures
: Malum Exemplum by Writingfundimension

Background
The Trans Atlantic Paranormal Team has been asked to investigate paranormal happenings at the notorious Bellingham Estate.

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Previously:  Jim Norris returns a drunken, unconscious Jenkins  Porter to the caretaker's cottage on the grounds of the Bellingham Estate. There he discovers a very dangerous demonic presence. 

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The Tipsy Butler, February 8, 2010

Luke Chadwick had the enviable ability to tune out his surroundings and utterly focus on his tasks. As the Trans Atlantic Paranormal Team's lead technical specialist, it was his responsibility to sift through hours of recorded material from a variety of investigative devices.

During the course of an average eight hours of paranormal investigating, the material gathered required double or even triple that amount of time to review. It wasn't long before the entire Team had come to value Luke's talent for ferreting out such evidence. If there was any doubt whatsoever about the possibility of contamination, Luke stringently eliminated the material.

The young man's contributions were one of the reasons the Team was developing a solid reputation for combining healthy skepticism with an ability to present compelling evidence backed up by emotional and spiritual support when needed. Though they were all under the age of 30, they'd been invited to investigate hauntings at several military facilities in the U.S. and abroad.

Luke firmly believed in his Team's ability to rip apart the nefarious web of bizarre happenings at the Manor. He just hoped, that in so doing, they did not wreck the fabric of trust and affection each member held for the other.

After Mike had disappeared down the hall to check on the girls, Luke decided to watch a portion of the DVR footage from the Bellingham Manor library. His finger was on the forward button and occasionally he paused to replay sections. This was his preferred method of reviewing evidence - scanning quickly and allowing impressions to settle in before doing a thorough study of the material.

He reached the section where he recalled filming a close-up of a book they'd discovered, The Satan Paradigm: A History of Evil. Though he was always careful to steady his hands when shooting footage, the book was blurred. But as he continued to watch the film, sections of the book came progressively into focus until only the title was obscured.

Grabbing a nearby magnifying lens, Luke nearly dropped it when he read the words: Diabolus Paradigm: A History of Malum. "What the hell is going on?" he addressed the empty room. The original title of the book had not been in Latin, he would swear to it.

A ringtone from the device at his elbow caused him to jerk like a prod had been applied to his spine. His hands shook as he answered, "Yes?"

"Everything's under control here, at least for now," Mike reported. "But something has come up and we need to have a meeting, right now, in Emma's room. Can you come right down?"

"Okay, I've got a little weird news myself. It'd be better if I could show it to you, but that can wait. Give me a few minutes to pull on some sweats and I'll be right down."

Luke quickly took note of the time on the DVR footage where the anomoly had occured and was in the process of storing the camera when there was a loud rap on his door.

"That you, Mike?" he called out.

To Luke's surprise, the owner of the Inn, Troy, answered.

"I've got Sheriff Porter on the line, he says it's urgent and insists on talking with someone from your Team."

How did the Sheriff know where to find them?

Luke hadn't been successful in talking Mike out of leaving Jim Norris alone to bury the dead dog and take a drunken, unconscious Jenkins Porter back to his cottage. And now it looked like the police had somehow found out about the situation and become suspicious of their activities. Luke's father was a State Trooper and he knew not involving the police right away tended to make them all look guilty as hell.

He gave Troy his cell number so the Sheriff could call him on a private line. No need to further involve the Innkeepers. Luke answered his phone thirty seconds later.

"This is Sheriff Porter. To whom am I speaking?"

"I'm Luke Chadwick, one of the members of T.A.P.T. Considering it's 5:30 A.M. I don't imagine this call is just to say, hey. Is something wrong?"

"Damned right there is and I don't appreciate your smart-ass tone. I'm at Jenkins Porter's cottage at the old Bellingham Estate. The cottage is empty but there are signs of a bloody, violent struggle."

"Jenkins Porter? That's your uncle, right?"

"Listen, you hotshot ghosthunter. Who I'm related to is none of your business. All you need to know is that I intend to come to the Inn to interview all four of you just as soon as my boys finish working this crime scene. Now...you gonna thank me for bein' hospitable and not dragging your asses down to the County Jail?" 

"Crime scene? The last time we saw your uncle he was smashed out of his gourd - you do know he's a drunk, right? He's probably lying in a pile of his own vomit somewhere in the Manor."

Luke's face flushed with anger and his words came out in a rapid, angry burst. The long silence at the other end made him regret his rash comments.

"You don't know squat, punk. And you're in way over your head. Consider yourself, and your so-called Team, persons of interest in the  disappearance and possible homicide of James Norris."

"Jim Norris?" Luke's blood pounded in his ears. "He was very much alive - though no thanks to your uncle - when we left him several hours ago. What proof do you have that we're involved in his supposed disappearance?"

"Ah, I have your undivided attention at last. Do I detect fear in your voice, Mr. Chadwick? The laughter that accompanied these words held a palpable malice. With deadly calm the sheriff continued, "Don't plan on going anywhere, Son," then cut off the communication.

**********

Jim Norris could smell feces and blood mixed with the sharp salt tang of the sea. He was blind to the approaching winter-weakened daylight. His pupils had been seared and he would never see light again. Below, he could hear the familiar sound of merciless water clashing with the empty spaces around the sea rocks where he had been left to die.

He would not beg a god he didn't believe in to save him. But then until a few hours prior he had not believed in the devil, either.

Soon enough, icy water would submerge his bound body, and with a mighty lunge, set his corpse floating free.


Recognized

Author Notes
Thanks, once again, to DonFofo for his great artwork: Four Arches.

Terms:
Malum Exemplum: Evil Patterns
Paranormal: Beyond normal appearances

Member of T.A.P.T.: Mike Peterson, team founder and lead investigator; Luke Chadwick, technical specialist; Mia Langley, co-founder and Psychic/Medium and Emma Barlow, team historian and investigator.

The Tipsy Butler is a very fine bed/breakfast. All but the name of The Tipsy Butler is fictional in this novel. To check out the real, award-winning Inn, go to thetipsybutler.com.

     

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