Welcome to the second part of this adventure.
If you missed part one, you can read it here or here’s a recap:
You’re hunting the murderer, Stevano, with your two companions Markus and Jana. Each of you has specific abilities that makes you ideal hunters. Your search for Stevano has taken you down into the chalk caverns below the forest. Stevano grew up in the catacombs beneath the city, which connect to these caverns. The caverns also lead toward the river but you and your group have decided the catacombs are the better option to explore in your search.
Let’s go exploring.
Heart Beats Option A: Catacombs
Jana joins Markus’ hulking dark shape by the two tunnel openings. Beside the towering man, she’s a wisp of a figure but you know just how deceiving that ‘frail’ look is.
There comes the deep, slow inhalation of breath as Jana smells the slight breeze wafting from each direction.
“Clay, water, damp earth, dry bones, and something—” Jana mumbles, “unwashed bodies?” she guesses.
“Anything resembling Stevano’s hair gel?” you ask. The murderer slicks his dark hair back against his head. The gel, according to Jana, has hints of rose and jasmine.
After a moment considering, Jana gives a, “Nah, no hint.”
“Catacombs then,” you decide.
Markus leads the way down the left tunnel. With his silver night vision, the darkness is meaningless to him.
Jana follows and you take up the rear.
You trail your fingers along the wall. The clay leaves white powder that you can faintly see, like tiny ghosts on each finger tip. The powder’s gritty but not unpleasant. You continue to trail your touch on the wall until there’s a disturbance that meets your skin. A slight vibration. You time it with the steady beat of your heart.
“Stop,” you whisper.
Jana and Markus freeze.
The vibration grows a tiny bit stronger. You count.
“Forty Five seconds. Hide.” Your short-hand command sends the other two into a silent scurry.
Markus runs forward and then back tracks down the tunnel. His eyes glint as he scans for a place, any place, for the three of you to tuck away out of sight.
Jana does the same except she pauses periodically, scenting for subtle changes to the air that’ll tell her of hidden side passages.
You count the time in your head as you kneel down and lay your palms flat against the floor. The vibrations are there, fainter due to their path through the ground, but also more solid in an indefinable way.
Thirty five seconds. You lay down and press your ear against the clay. The vibrations thrum with the pound of each man’s heel. Four men, you can tell from the weight behind every footfall.
But the thrumming isn’t consistent. With the next footfall you count one, two—five, six—you get to twenty five and there’s a whoosh before the vibration continues, much diminished, toward your location.
“Follow,” you whisper and Jana and Markus fall in as you run forward. Within five seconds, you locate the grate, the vent in the floor, that muffled the approaching steps. If you hadn’t known to look for it, you wouldn’t have seen it due to the white and gray coloring of its bars against the chalk white floor.
With a heave, Markus lifts it free. Jana vanishes inside by descending a tight ladder down, and you follow. Markus brings up the rear and settles the grate back into place only five seconds before four men traipse by over top the grate.
Jana muffles an ‘ugh’ at their stench. Even though you don’t have her nose, you cover your face in the crook of your elbow to blunt the smell of sweat and urine.
But this doesn’t muffle your ears. You hear the distinct tha-thump of each man’s heart beat as they pass. You’re used to Jana and Markus’ and are able to ignore theirs as you listen to the heightened pace of the four above.
When they’re past for more than five seconds, Jana taps your foot on the rung above her head.
You wait until you can no longer hear the heart beats before relaxing.
“Yes,” you whisper to Jana, both giving her permission to speak and confirming the men are beyond ear shot.
“Under that ick,” Jana answers, “one of the men is wearing the same hair gel as Stevano.”
Markus grunts. “But none of them looked like him.” From his position directly below the grate, Markus would have had a clear view, even in the dark, of all four men.
“We’re almost to the catacombs,” she whispers, “and there are more men that way. Probably a group of them, judging by the smell.”
“Follow the smaller group or continue to the catacombs, Captain?” Markus asks.
Ab. Continue to Catacombs?
Leave your vote in the comments below and next Thursday we’ll explore whichever option gets the most votes.
Until then, blessings,