The Seekers – Heather Graham

Joe Dunhill finished his follow-up report on what the media had labeled the Forget-Me-Not murders. Why that name, he wasn’t completely sure, except that the media always needed a catchy phrase, no matter what they were doing. Night crew was coming on, and he was free to leave for the day. He was tired; it had been a challenging case. He had tracked every conceivable clue, and—until he’d called on Adam Harrison and his Krewe—Joe had been the only one convinced that the accidents had been murder, and that those “accidents” were related to disappearances—which also proved, in the end, to be murder. Explaining his theory had been difficult, at best. He’d questioned his own sanity. His original job had been to find a missing politician, but in searching the area of Johnson Square, a man had accosted him in the street. He’d come out of nowhere, and said, “Detective, I don’t know how or why, but they’re all related. The deaths. Nothing was an accident. They were murders! All the recent deaths in this area…not accidents!” The man shook his head with pure disgust. “Sir…” Joe said, and his voice trailed. The man appeared to be the very missing person he was seeking, a flesh and blood version of the picture he’d stared at day after day in his search. “I swear to you, I’m following every lead.

What is your name? Are you related to Mr. Drake? If you have information—” “I just gave you my information!” the man snapped. And he started past Joe. Naturally, Joe spun around to stop him. But he was gone. Disappeared, vanished, into thin air. Just like the missing politician, Simon Drake. Joe’s superiors had been supportive; he was welcome to pursue his theory. On his own time, of course. There couldn’t be an official investigation regarding such an unlikely scenario. So, Joe had contacted Adam Harrison, a man he’d read about several times, along with the various cases his unit had worked. Adam had surreptitiously sent help, and the agents had managed to find new leads where the trail had gone cold for Joe. Their help had been invaluable in solving the case and catching a murderous pair intent on keeping the transgressions of their ancestors deeply buried. And now, it was finally done; victims all accounted for, press conferences over, the last of the paperwork finished. He could move on.

There were other cases on his desk. But for now… Hell, he was going to get out of the office. He was going to remember he had friends, he did have a life—kind of—and he needed to get back to living it, trying to be more of a regular human being. One thing still bugged him. One thing he couldn’t shake. Who the hell was the man who’d stopped him when he’d walked down the street by Johnson Square? He’d met most of Drake’s family and close friends and associates during the initial stages of the investigation… Joe had lived and breathed the case too long; he needed to hang with friends, play football in the park, have a beer and whine about a game on TV. Or just go home. He was drained. As he headed out of the office, colleagues called out to him. “Hey, man, congrats on the Drake case!” one of his fellow detectives said. “Bravo!” someone else said. Embarrassed, he lifted a hand. “Yeah, thanks guys, had that FBI help,” he said. Hell, help? The FBI had basically solved the damned thing, but then again, they’d been very different FBI, the kind that lived what they were doing, and who saw… Saw what? What was beyond the norm. He waved a good-night and headed out.

His little house was off Victory Street, and he owned it free and clear, thanks to an uncle who had sold it cheaply to him and moved to Arizona. It was home; comfortable. He walked in, grabbed a beer from the refrigerator, sat down on the sofa and turned his television on for company. He wished he had a dog. There were so many factors about the case still plaguing him. Things he had tried and tried to discover, and others had found, as if by instinct. As if the investigators were omniscient. The agents had come from a unit labeled the Krewe of Hunters by their coworkers in other units and divisions— and by the press. Joe had heard that they took on anything that might be considered “strange and unusual.” Exactly what that meant, he wasn’t sure. But it sure seemed as if they had special powers. A life, yeah, he needed a life. He’d had one, even been very nearly engaged. But then, his girlfriend had been offered a job in Nashville, and while she was hopeful, he just couldn’t leave Savannah. The fact that neither of them was willing to compromise had sealed their relationship’s fate.

That seemed long ago now. He was so damned tired. He nearly dropped the bottle of beer he’d barely managed to sip. He set it down and leaned back, closed his eyes. “Detective?” He startled awake at the voice and started to reach for his gun and holster on the coffee table, but paused. There was no one there. Except then there was. Just no one who would be threatened by a .45 caliber weapon. Joe sat up straight, disbelieving. Wondering if he was still sleeping. Bit by bit, the image of a man formed in front of him. It was a man he had seen before; the one who looked just like Simon Drake, who’d appeared to him in Johnson Square. The man who had disappeared… “Detective, hey, don’t get up. I was just trying… I’m not very good at this… I know I’m leaving… I’m ready.

I just wanted to say thank you. Really, thank you. I can’t thank you enough.” And then, he faded away. Joe stared. Maybe he did need a department shrink. Or maybe… He pulled out his phone and dialed a number he’d memorized over the past weeks. Dallas Wicker, the FBI agent who’d helped Joe on the recent murder case, answered. “I need help. I have to get out of here—I think I need to join the Krewe.” “What? Joe, I’m sure you could apply to the FBI. But you don’t just join the Krewe. You’re a great cop. I’d love to work with you again. But there are unique requirements for the Krewe.

Agents need special abilities—” “Well, Dallas, the ghost of Simon Drake just stopped by to say goodbye to me. How will that work for meeting any unique requirements?” There was silence on the other end. And then Dallas said, “Well, hell, then, Detective. Come on up.” 1 “The bodies were found in rooms throughout the inn. Four men, three women, each bludgeoned repeatedly with an ax, no fewer than ten blows on the least battered victim. Most lay sleeping in the rooms they had taken for the night. The proprietor, John Newby, was found behind the bar that served the tavern. It was also where he kept his books for his overnight guests. “The coroner brought in several men to serve as witnesses in the subsequent inquest—Creighton Mariner, a journalist, Frank Gold, a local butcher, and local farmers Grant Fisher, Ethan Guttenberg and Bjorn Muller. Mariner wrote, ‘The killings were so frenzied and brutal that blood and brain matter were found in many a room. Truly, the sight was so gruesome one could only think of the work of a demonic hellhound. Yet, none of this compared to the discoveries deep in the basement where it came to light that John Newby was ridding himself of unwanted servants and guests in the most ghastly way possible.’” Keri Wolf, sitting at one of the hardwood tables in the Miller Inn and Tavern of York County, Pennsylvania, watched as Brad Holden gave his dramatic intro to the camera. She’d just met the man in person, but his ghost-hunter series had apparently become one of the hottest shows being independently produced on the internet.

He had started off modestly, and—whether or not any of his “discoveries” were really true—he had managed, with his small group of paranormal investigators, to create his immense audience on his own. He was a slim, handsome, charismatic man, and it was easy to see how his enthusiasm transferred to a large audience onscreen. So large, in fact, he had a second special guest on this investigation besides Keri: the popular young actor Carl Brentwood, fresh off his video documentary of the McLane House in Charleston. Carl had been so successful with his shows filmed at the McLane House that, if she was correct in reading between the lines, he had purchased the old Miller Inn and Tavern where they were “investigating” reports of paranormal activity today. She was sure Brad’s charm had been convincing when he’d approached Carmen Menendez, Keri’s publicity agent, about joining in on this investigation. Which basically amounted to spending the night with ghost hunters at an inn where one of the most horrific crimes of the twentieth century had taken place. The exposure of working with the Truth Seekers could bring publicity for her books that could not be purchased at any price, Brad had promised. Keri was equally sure that Carl, the enthusiastic young heartthrob, being involved had also swayed Carmen into thinking this was a guaranteed, amazing publicity opportunity, and it would be an exceptionally effective way to sell books. And of course, it would be. Keri glanced across the table. Carl was seated with her; they were both to speak for the intro. Also, at the table was Spencer Atkins, the man who had sold the historic inn to Carl. He had promised Carl to help him in any way, except for speaking during any project that had to do with ghosts or the paranormal. Atkins was still a nice man—Carl owned the property now and could do what he wanted, and he was welcome to lean in to the paranormal if he wanted. Atkins just wasn’t going to be part of it.

Atkins was simply watching the beginning of the project out of curiosity, and was due to head out at any time for an appointment in Philadelphia. He observed Brad Holden with patience and amusement. Carl had planned this episode with a great deal of enthusiasm. He was a believer. He glanced at Keri and smiled and gave her a thumbs-up; she had to smile back. Despite his immense popularity and the fact that he certainly had the accolades that would justify him behaving like a true diva, he was simply a very nice young man. They both glanced back at Brad as he gave the camera one of his big, we’re-all-in-this-together smiles and continued, “Welcome, folks, to another fantastic voyage with the Truth Seekers. If you’re joining us for the first time, I’m Brad Holden, and I and my fellow Truth Seekers—Eileen Falcon, Mike Lerner, Serena Nelson and Pete Wright—welcome you to our online programming, offering you investigations of myth, legend, perception…and truth. We feel we’ll be bringing you something extremely special with this investigation. “We’re here at the Miller Inn and Tavern, and we’ll soon be settling in for the night. We’re getting our cameras all set, and dark is falling. Now, the past of this inn is well documented. The building was opened to welcome weary travelers in 1770, just as the ferment of rebellion became strong in the American colonies. It’s amazing just to think of those who stopped by—George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and even Patrick Henry stayed here, all enjoying the fabled hospitality of the Miller Inn and Tavern. While the inn already had a reputation for being haunted, luckily for America, those fine men survived.

” Brad paused for a dramatic moment, allowing Mike Lerner, working the camera, to lower the lights. Then he continued, “It wasn’t until 1926, when several gruesome murders occurred here, that the inn would be placed into the annals of the bizarre and yes, my friends, the paranormal.” He turned to Keri, beckoning her before the camera. Not sure if she should take his hand and smile or run as far as possible from him, Keri stood. “The exceptionally lovely Keri Wolf, known for her The Way It Happened series, is here to join us for this investigation. Keri can tell us a little more about the history of this inn, her area of expertise, and why she found herself so fascinated by Pennsylvania Dutch hex stories—which led, we’re told, to the events of 1926, and our paranormal search of this tavern tonight.” Keri still felt uncertain, but she found herself standing in the pool of light in front of the camera, taking Brad’s hand. Carmen had assured her the group really searched for the explainable—before determining if anything was paranormal. Everyone knows Carl Brentwood! And Brad Holden is great. His video feeds of The Seekers garner millions of views. Between them, they have a huge audience. If we’re lucky, we’ll sell a tenth of their numbers in your books! So, here she was. She tried to smile as charmingly as Brad before speaking.



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Updated: 17 March 2021 — 05:51

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