‘Ok son, tell us how it all happened out there,’ I said.
The boy gulped down another mouthful of cold, bland tea and I looked down into the pock marked moon-scape of a face; his frightened blue eyes gazing back. ‘Well sir, it-it’s all still really hazy.’
I groaned and walked around the chair the boy was sitting on, circling him as if he were the sole survivor of a doomed ship and I was a ravenous shark. I made eye contact with him and closed further in upon him, his round face taking up the small interview room, his blue eyes becoming ice-cold. My manner deliberately changed and I patted the boy’s shoulder reassuringly. ‘I know Maurice, but try and remember.’
He looked down at the top of the table and paused. Letting out a deep breath, he stammered, ‘Well, I- I was in my room doin’ nothin,’ nothin’ is all. Just listening to some records and it got late so I think I fell asleep and-.’
‘Now Maurice,’ I began, ‘we found six grams of psilocybin on you in the woods so we know you were doing something out there.’
He panicked and stuttered, ‘It was just a couple mushrooms Sergeant Willis, you won’t tell my mother will you, sir?’
‘We will if you don’t cooperate!’ snarled Bellows. Maurice couldn’t bring himself to look up as he felt the intense brown eyes of Bellows’ boring into him.
‘That’s enough Constable Bellows, this is my interview,’ I calmly said. Turning back to him I reasserted, ‘we won’t. We just want to know what happened out there in the woods.’ Smiling at Maurice, ‘go on son.’
‘Ok sir, well. I was listening to my records like I said and I heard this, well… this bustle going on in the hedgerow.’ He stopped and anxiously looked about.
‘Go on son,’ I interceded.
‘Well sir, I don’t think you understand how peculiar this was. The, the words of the song said it and then the music happened.’
I looked at Bellows incongruously who rolled his eyes, and then at Maurice. Befuddled, I said, ‘What do you mean the music happened?’
‘Exactly that sir.’ He paused, ‘I looked out the window and the hedgerow was moving. Now at this I thought I was trippin,’ but blinking and rubbing my eyes didn’t make it stop.’ He gulped, ‘Then I heard it.’
The boy stopped but the earnest way he said it made me wonder. ‘Heard what?’
‘A- a voice, a laugh. It was eerie sir. So I got up and I walked downstairs and opened the door. I peeked around the corner, and the hedgerow rustled again,’ said Maurice, excitedly acting it out.
‘Calm down Maurice and tell us slowly what happened.’ I cooed.
Maurice began, gradually becoming more frantic ‘Well sir, before I could look at the hedgerow again, I saw this- this woman dressed in white across the road. Her back was turned and she, well she floated westwards into the woods down near the crossing at Dorset way.’
‘Did you say floated?’ scoffed Bellows.
‘I saw it with my own eyes sir, her dress didn’t move at all.’
I could hear Bellows restraining laughter behind me as he said, ‘Look son, there’s two paths you can take in the long run, and there’s still time to change the road your on. Tell us what really happened. You’re in a lot of trouble Mr. Gresham.’
‘Bellows,’ I got up, and moved towards him. Lowering my voice I said, ‘Sitting down that hall is a body and we can’t explain why it’s here. There is no apparent cause of death, no way to identify it, no clues and this boy is our only explanation. I know it seems far fetched but I’m inclined to think that this boy believes what he’s saying.’
‘But sir, he’s just some delinquent who had a bad trip and murdered someone.’
‘Maybe he is, but there’s something more to this.’ I whispered. I sat back down opposite Maurice and stared intently at him. His furrowed brow and befuddled look greeted me in return.
‘Sir, it really happened like that! I’m not making this up.’ Maurice implored ardently.
‘I believe you son; go on telling us what happened after you saw the woman in white.’
‘Well, I- I uh, blinked and hid behind the door. But when I looked again she was gone. She- she was gone, but there was this shining white light through the trees so I followed it across the road.’ Pausing, Maurice looked at his shaking hands and cupped them to his face. Resting his elbows upon the table, with his face still in his hands, he began again, ‘when I got to the edge of the woods, I- I heard laughter all around me. The forest was echoing with laughter.’ His hands reached out towards me nearly as beseechingly as his eyes did, as he said, ‘it was just like the music again, sir.’
At this not even Bellows laughed. ‘You mean the song said it and it happened again?’ I stammered.
‘Yes, yes sir. It felt strange when I stepped into the woods. It felt almost… wrong somehow. I felt instantly cold and my breath was shallow and sharp. However much air I got, it wasn’t enough sir.’
‘What happened to the light?’ invited Bellows.
‘Well sir, it- it wasn’t light exactly. It kept moving off into the woods. I followed it for what felt like hours until it stopped by a queer little brook. I got closer to the light and it wasn’t light at all. It was the woman, she-she was glowing. She was standing very still, but she was glowing. It was then the strangest thing happened… everything seemed to stop. There were no sounds except my breathing, no sounds at all.’ He looked up at me, emphasising his words. ‘And then I felt like I recognised her somehow,’ he exclaimed as he threw his hands into the air. His brow wrinkled and he whispered, ‘I felt like I knew her.’ He paused. ‘Then a songbird broke the silence and the woman looked up at the tree it was in for a long time. The- then,’ Maurice gulped, ‘she turned around and looked right at me. She didn’t have any eyes sir! They were just white! But I felt like she was looking right into me none the same.’ Maurice was hysterical as he said, ‘It was then she held up her hands, and tilted her head to the side, and- and reminded me of how Jesus looks on the cross. Then, she-she just fell.’
The door opened, snapping the tension in two like an overtaxed beam. Constable Piper strode in. ‘Sergeant Willis, may I please speak to you?’ Perceiving Bellows’ and then Willis’, stunned expressions, he said matter-of-factly, ‘what’s wrong? You all look like you’ve seen a ghost.’ He chuckled, but stopped self consciously short as his expectations were not met by their return gesture. ‘I-I… sir, can I speak to you outside please?’
Willis raised himself with considerable effort from his seat, not for a moment removing his gaze from Maurice. ‘Keep the boy talking,’ he whispered to Bellows in passing. As he opened the door, a thought struck him like a thunderclap. ‘What was the song you were listening to son?’
It took several moments for the question to register in Maurice’s shell-shocked mind. Maurice looked up at him, ‘It-it was Stairway to Heaven, sir.’
The colour drained from the face of Willis as he stared at the boy. Bellows looked equally stunned. ‘Wha-what did you say?’
‘It… the song was Stairway to Heaven.’
He stared at Maurice for what seemed like an eternity and then, clearing his throat to break the spell of silence he stepped out of the interview room. ‘You had better have a good reason for dragging me out of there Piper.’
‘Oh I do sir. I-well, umm, you’re not going to believe this sir.’ Piper avoided Willis’ gaze and stared into the floor, fidgeting with a paper clip in his hands.
‘Well? Spit it out man!’
‘It’s about the body sir. You’re not going to believe this.’
The anxious reverie of Piper instantly connected in Willis’ mind. He broke into a run, past the bewildered Piper, down the hall towards the cold, sterile morgue. For Willis, the run towards the morgue felt like a marathon towards the truth.
‘It’s disappeared sir!’ Piper called after him. ‘It was there one moment, when I got up to get a cup of tea and came back, it was gone.’
Willis threw open the doors to the morgue and looked around wildly. He felt faint, and gripping the nearest table he blinked back spots. He looked to the hard metal slab where the body of Mrs. Gertrude Gresham, Maurice’s mother, had once lain in the rigidity of death and now an empty white sheet greeted him. His rasping breath became icy, as he looked up and into the ceiling, images of a golden stairway and then a leering ivory skull flashed into his horrified mind. All around him he could hear the laughing of a gleeful madman celebrating victory. ‘Gone… gone. It can’t be gone…’ A thin crimson stream trickled from his right ear as he crumpled to the floor, his mind bursting like a dam engorged by the monsoonal flood-rains.