She must be bipolar. That was the only thing Brett could think as he struggled to help the flailing Tom out from underneath the skeleton without disturbing the bones too much. The old man scooted backwards on his butt and looked disdainfully at Shiloh, who was giggling uncontrollably.
“I’m sorry,” she gasped, clutching at her stomach and doubling over with the laughing fit. “It’s just so…perfect. I told you we shouldn’t dig here,” she managed, wiping at the tears rolling down her cheeks as Brett and Tom simply stared, dumbfounded.
“Shiloh,” Brett said after a moment, “can you help me with these bones, please?”
She immediately sobered. “You want me to touch it?” He nodded and watched as she searched the ground around her with amusement lacing his features.
Crossing his arms over his chest he cocked his head to the side. “What are you looking for?”
Tom, back by the excavator by then, paused in brushing his pants off and looked around. He hefted a large branch over his shoulder and dropped it at Shiloh’s feet. “Here. I’m going to shower.”
“Thanks.” She watched him walk into the fog before turning back to the task at hand. Hesitating, she looked at Brett. “So, you really want to move the bones?”
“Well, I’d like to put them back in the chest before the rains hit.” He looked up at the ominous clouds. Judging by the color, they had about a half hour before a storm rolled in and ruined the work day. Not that it wasn't already ruined. Looking back at Shiloh, he lunged forward to prevent what she was doing, but he was too late.
She wedged the branch under the half open lid of the crate and gave a grunt before heaving it upright. The skeleton clattered to the dirt, clinking together noisily as several relics and documents fell on top of them from the time capsule and cracked a few smaller shards of bone in half.
Brett cursed under his breath. “Damn it, Shiloh. What’d you do that for?”
“The crate had to be moved to get the bones back in.” Duh, Brett, her voice said.
Rolling his eyes, Brett knelt and lifted the skull with tender care. Shiloh was watching him closely, fascinated with what he was doing. A gentle whiff of her shampoo hit him full force as the wind rustled her hair when she crouched next to him; lavender and honey. “It’s so tiny,” she said softly.
Blinking his way back to the present and out of the brief fantasy her closeness induced, Brett studied the skull. It was small and perfectly rounded, that of a small child, toddler or maybe even infant. A single fracture ran down the length of the head from a gaping hole in the right temple.
“Jesus Christ,” he whispered. “This kid was murdered.”
A clap of thunder made them both jump and there wasn’t much time to think when driving rain began to pelt their backs. Shiloh worked quickly to gather the documents and trinkets into the chest and together she and Brett shoved the skeleton into it and dragged the heavy box into the nearest building.
The door smacked shut on a rusted hinge with the forceful winds, drawing a shocked gasp from Shiloh as she ran nervous hands over her hair. Brett glanced around, realizing with a foreboding feeling that they’d stumbled into the home of a former affluent family. The walls of the lower level were lined with living areas, rotting furniture half draped with tarps and stuffing peeking out from the torn corners. An old stove sat in the corner of the kitchen, the sole remaining appliance. On the upper level would be the bedrooms.
Shiloh was staring at an old photo hanging on the wall, her sleeve dirty from wiping a thick layer of dust from the glass. “Hey, Brett,” she said over her shoulder, “who do you suppose used to live here?”
Brett had extensively researched the area and its history before their excursion. He knew that he would be looking into the face of Lady Genevieve, the infamous woman who was murdered by the crazed fisherman.
In fact, she and her family were murdered just above Shiloh’s head. But he couldn’t tell her that. He leaned close over her shoulder and studied the picture as though he were only just seeing it for the first time. “I’m not sure,” he lied. “Probably a fisherman and his family.”
“They look awfully rich to be a fisherman’s family,” she replied doubtfully, turning.
Brett glanced at her, finding himself in a rather advantageous position. Shiloh was right between his chest and the wall, mere inches from him. Lightning flashed outside the window and the sky darkened, casting the otherwise dreary day into shadowy darkness.
Shiloh swallowed, looking at him with those wide eyes. Do I make the move? Brett cast back and forth until a loud bang from right above their heads caused her to leap forward and grip his shirt in her fists. They both stared at the ceiling, tensing when the sound resonated in the empty house again. “What’s that noise?” she whispered, as though someone were there to hear her.
“I don’t know.” He gently removed her hands from his shirt and moved towards the stairs, pausing when he felt her latch onto his back. “Shiloh, I can’t go very far with you hanging onto me.”
“Are you crazy?” she said in a low hissing whisper. “Don’t you ever watch horror movies? There’s probably some cannibal up there waiting to strip your skin off and wear it as a pretty coat. God, Brett.”
He snorted. “You are insane.” The loud bang echoed through the house again, trailed by a clap of thunder and she pressed closer to his back. “Well, what do you propose we do?”
“Hide in the oven?”
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