The ichor reflected my light like snake scales shining in the sun, it looked rubbery and sticky, but when I knelt to poke the nearest chunk with my finger it gave way like a kind of light cream substance. Foamy. It didn't even stick to my nail, dripping off in thick drops that congealed instantly after coming in contact with its lump.

"We're extending the scene from the Larsons' to encompass this area too," Al said as he came up behind me. "Did you…? Milly, you really oughta get some gloves before you go muck-diving."

I stood up, shaking my hand off instinctively, "Right, right. Get your light out, we're going down there. Don't slip on the shit."

There were over a dozen creaking, unsteady stairs to go down, and with each step the darkness seemed to press down on us harder. As we reached the bottom I could hear officers and technicians setting things up above me. Al's light flashed past me and to the left, deeper into the basement.

"Holy shit," I heard him say under his breath, there was a mixture of fear and awe in his voice.

I followed his light with my own as we both hit the bottom and I instantly understood how he felt. The walls were absolutely coated in the black ichor while the floor was almost untouched with the stuff. It was as if there had been an explosion. From the center of the floor a spider's web of cracks worked their way outwards to the walls, and there was something else too. Something in the center of the web.

Al found the light switch and with a soft click the entire room was finally lit up. We gasped in tandem. The thing in the center of the room…was the top of someone's head. Their eyes were bugged out and blood red, and it was tilted back just enough to be able to see the top arch of their screaming mouth. Teeth were missing, and the dark hair was matted with a mixture of blood and the black substance.

"Oh Christ," I heard Al dry heaving behind me. I didn't blame him for it, I was barely holding it together myself. "T-That's Mrs. O'Neil. Rhonda O'Neil."

"Or what's left of her." I said. It came out harsher than I meant it to, but that's how I was when I got uncomfortable. My heart felt like it was going to explode, it was all I could hear. Over my years in the homicide department I had seen plenty of bad things, nasty things. I'd had to learn very quickly that people, at their core, could be absolutely horrific to one another. It looked as if Mrs. O'Neil had been buried up to her mouth in concrete, but of course that was physically impossible. The terror on what I could see of her face told a tale of intense pain.

Our heads turned with a shot as someone appeared at the top of the stairs. Gil.

"You're both white as sheets, what's going on?" He began to descend.

"Stop." I barked, and his eyes went wide as he froze between steps. "You're going to need to bring some excavating equipment down here with you."

I wish I hadn't been there when they "extracted" what was left of Rhonda O'Neil from the floor, but I was. It was my job to be. I imagine Gil was used to that kind of carnage, all I knew is that I didn't want to be. It was all clinical to him.

First it was discovered that Mrs. O'Neil was not really entombed within the concrete. It was just the top half of her head, which Gil peeled away from the floor with a sickening wet sound that threatened to kill my appetite for the rest of my life. Several of her remaining teeth fell from her mouth as Gil carefully brought the top half of the victim's head up to get a closer look at. Thin strands of the black substance oozed down onto the floor into little puddles, which broke off into tiny streams that flowed down and away into the cracks in the concrete.

One of Gil's boys was holding something that looked almost like a radar gun used by officers out hunting speeders, but it was some new technology that could analyze contents of certain substances on the spot without having to disturb evidence. XRF-something or other.

The man looked to be about half Gil's age, lacking many of the age lines and overall grey-ness the job brought along with it. "Sir, I can't get a reading on this black stuff. The analyzer just keeps giving me error messages."

Gil made a "hrmmph" noise, which the tech apparently understood to mean Gil had heard him.

"I still want to get the imager in here and see if we can find anything beneath the floor before we go randomly tearing it up," Gil said, carefully bagging the remains of Mrs. O'Neil's head.

"So does that mean we can get the fuck out of here now?" I asked, making no attempt to hide my desire to escape.

Gil pulled the dirtied latex gloves from his hands and used his index finger to push his glasses up his nose. "Yeah, we can take it from here. I imagine you've got a lot of questions for the gathering mob outside."

With Al at my heels, I got out of the house as fast as I could trying to look like that wasn't what I was trying to do. The fresh, damp air of the approaching evening was heaven on my face and to my lungs. The canopy of clouds had grown darker and denser, signs of an oncoming storm. Normally I would enjoy this brief twilight combination of weather and time of day, but any hopes for having a pleasant day, or even month, were long gone.

Gil was right, the crowd was still thick with murmuring civilians, and more than a few had their phones out recording everything we were doing. And the news vans were back. I frowned. Someone had leaked our newest discovery already, but at least Chief Albrecht was on the scene now-he could handle the media. It was his forte.

Without a word, I pushed under the tape and through the crowd, ignoring all questions thrown at me. I didn't see Al peel away, but I was glad to be able to take a moment for myself. I stopped at the curb and leaned against one of the dozens of patrol cars that had taken up residence on Washington Street. It wasn't quite dark enough for the streetlights to come on yet so I could still see up and down the neighborhood without much trouble.

Washington was one of the bigger neighborhoods in the city, located on the outskirts right at the border of the city limits. Still relatively new, it had that classic middle-class feel. All in all there were forty or so houses all the way up and down. Each painted a shade of off-white, with black tile roofs. There were trees planted in the front and back yards of at least half of them, and those backyards boxed in by privacy fences. The whole thing had been a goldmine for the city, built on a large chunk of land that had been hoarded by a single, wealthy family until the final old man had died two decades ago with no living heir. I'm sure the city was more than willing to pick up the "discarded" property. This all happened when I will still a baby rookie in the academy, so I don't know all that much else about it.

Suddenly my phone began to vibrate in my pocket, startling me out of my fatigued reverie. This time I actually looked at the name of the caller before picking up. It was my wife.

"Hey, babe," I started.

But she jumped in right away, "Milly, is everything okay? That…thing going on with Washington Street is all over the news and-," she was in her worried-mode. Even with all my time on the force, her apprehension and anxiety concerning my safety hadn't waned one bit.

I told her once, at the beginning, that I would never lie to her. So I didn't. "It's only getting worse," I said in a low tone, and I heard her sigh softly. No doubt she was also seconds away from going back to chewing on her fingernails. "I'll be home late tonight, probably around midnight or so. Get the kid in bed and don't worry about me, okay?" Silence. "Lexi?"

Another sigh, this one louder and a bit more annoyed. That was assuring. "Okay, okay. Just…be careful."

I chuckled, "I will, I promise. I always am." Somewhere in the distance came the distinct rumble of approaching thunder. "Well, shit. Maybe I'll be able to get out of it early…"

"I hope so," Lexi said.

"Is that Mom on the phone?" came a tiny voice. "Tell her I said 'I love you'!"

Lexi laughed and I felt the weight on my chest lighten just the tiniest of bits.

"Love you too, kiddo." I said, and I heard Lexi repeat it.

She said something else, but my attention had been ripped away in a fraction of a second by a man suddenly walking by me and heading towards a house that I hadn't really been paying attention to until that very moment. The front lawn of this house looked as if it hadn't been mowed in weeks, weeds and dandelions grew tall and unchecked, along with a handful of small white mushrooms. The man approached a lawnmower that had been sitting in the middle of the lawn and dragged it down one house and put it in the garage.

My gut squirmed again and I felt my throat tighten. "I gotta go, babe." I said into the phone.

Lexi recognized my tone right away, God bless her. "Alright, honey, be careful."

Small drops of rain began to fall around me as I shoved my phone back into my pocket and approached the neighbor of the house with the neglected lawn. The closer I got to that house, the worse it looked. The paint looked worn and chipped, and the roof was missing several tiles. I counted and it was only five houses down from the Larson place. How did I not notice it before? Had any of us noticed it? I tried to catch a glance inside but the windows were so dirty I couldn't see inside the pitch dark.

I came onto the neighbor's driveway just as he was pushing the mower into the little area between boxes that had been carved out for it. "Hey, excuse me…," the man jumped at my voice.

"O-Oh! You're one of the detectives here about…," thunder interrupted him, and suddenly the sky opened up and rain began to pour down in a thick, grey curtain. He motioned for me to step into the garage with him, which I was more than happy to do.

"What can you tell me about your neighbors there," I pointed to the dilapidated house.

The man, who was frighteningly skinny and pale a sheet wrung his hands together, thin tongue flicking out across dried lips. "Ah, you see, Ma'am…" He swallowed hard, and I could see his Adam's apple twitch. "Guy who lives there's a shut-in, haven't seen hide nor hair of him in the last five years, ever since his wife died."

I pulled my small notepad from my jacket's inner pocket, along with the fancy ink pen Lexi got me for my birthday last year. The wind howled outside and leaves danced along the street. "Tell me all about him."