Part 10: Grant: Buried Alive
The drive to the cemetery was surprisingly quick and painless. My buzz had worn off a while back and I was able to focus on my driving. Not that my potentially poor driving is what would attract attention when there’s a gaping bloody hole in my windshield, mind you. So we took the back roads as much as possible, which is difficult when the graveyard is on the main street (Wisconsin Avenue), and pulled into an apartment complex’s parking lot, just down the hill from the cemetery. The lot was across the street from a city park called Peabody where rambunctious youths like to sled, but the children had long since gone to bed.
In reality, “the” cemetery is actually two unique cemeteries that have grown together. There is Riverside Cemetery and there is a Catholic one — St. Joseph’s — just behind the former. In fact, there is still a convent adjacent to the Catholic Cemetery. The convent had a defoliated footpath leading from the building atop the hill down to the parking lot we were standing in now, mostly overgrown with bushes and vines. The eight-foot cement arch at the entrance had cracked and the keystone had fallen to the earth years ago.
We began to walk the distance, Sam with the garbage bag over her shoulder like some sort of macabre Santa Claus. The trail was uphill and all dirt, so I was thankful the snow had decided not to come down yet this year. Every twenty yards there was a stone structure with a “fireplace” at chest level and a semi-circle arched over the top. The nuns at one time had used these things to light their way up and down the path, and before that they featured the various stations of the cross.
Now the pathway was no longer in use, unless we were to count the vagrants who kept warm by them on occasion or the drug addicts who passed out underneath their fiery embers. Once there was even a rapist who hid for days in these woods, and would come out from time to time to expose himself to children. He would lure them to the edge of the treeline with a small knife, which never seemed to work the way he wanted. I forget if he was ever caught or not. I would hope if someone was stupid enough to use a knife as a lure that they would be easy to catch.
Another interesting thing is that at the top of an offshoot of the path is a gravestone for a woman named Kate Blood. Many people have passed along stories concerning Blood and her marker, including grant writer and paranormal researcher Chad Lewis of Eau Claire who claims the stone is warmer than the other stones surrounding Kate’s. The primary story is that Kate killed her husband and now the stone leaks a red ooze, particularly when examined under the moonlight. I choose no to believe in such hogwash; heck, I doubt that Blood even murdered her husband. Or that he murdered her. Or their children were murdered. Or whatever. But the strangest story of all is about the catacombs.
When I was younger — during that anti-conformist stage I was telling you about — I would hang out at a coffee shop on College Avenue called Wired where you could loiter all night with a mocha and sit online. This was 1995, when the Internet was still thought to be just a fad and not necessarily the future of everything society is founded upon. Little did they know! The place was unlike your average Starbucks, as the clientèle consisted of such odd characters as goths, vampires, cross-dressers, punks and metalheads. Similar to Beaners, another cafe down the street, but more extreme. I came in one night and found my friend Lane talking with another man I had never seen before, and whose real name I no longer recall. I believe his last name was Young. He called himself Psycho-Rat, his scraggly blonde hair cut into some sort of hackjob mullet.
This guy was creepy to say the least, really creepy. He looked to be in his mid-twenties, but he was in reality forty-one according to the identification card he carried on him. Always jittery, as if he was coming down from an everlasting heroin binge. You never knew if he was going to go into a seizure or snap at you with his blood-stained teeth and infect you with rabies. He lived above the clothing store Glad Rags, rode an old Schwinn bicycle with a basket and at one time worked at Goodwill. At least, that was his employment until he was “attacked” by a falling Christmas tree. Now all he can remember are the bad days in the Catacombs.
The Catacombs of Paris is a famous burial place in France that became a tomb near the end of the 1700s, created as a large network of subterranean chambers and galleries. Tunnels leading all over the place, corridors extending to regions unknown. Many myths have sprung up about these tunnels, many concerning the Knights Templar. And why not? Any series of passageways that has bones and skulls jutting out at every corner deserves some sort of fabricated esoteric backstory, in my opinion.
These are not the catacombs he meant, however, but rather the catacombs underneath the streets of Appleton and whose subterranean entrance is just below Riverside Cemetery. I have seen the entrance, although the aperture was caved in with dirt and rubble. This man was trapped in the Catacombs for a few years of his life, where they — “they” being the government, apparently — did experiments on mentally handicapped people who would not be missed by society. Psycho-Rat gave himself this moniker because he was allegedly turned into part rat by the government’s scientists. He had to constantly file his teeth down to keep them from growing through the roof of his mouth — or so he claimed — and still had the stump of a tail he chopped off. He offered to show me the stump, but I had to go to his apartment and I couldn’t bring myself to do something so risky. He was scary enough in public, the last thing I needed to see was his murderous lair.
Other people had been turned into birds (or were they angels?) and other Moreauesque abominations. The steel-plated hallways were loaded with armed guards in dark black suits, and the deeper you went into the catacombs the more guards you would find. At the very center was the prized possession of the project’s leader: a white dragon, with almost transparent skin. Where they had found a white dragon remains a mystery, but there he was just the same. Chained to a wall, you could hear its saddened screams for miles in the underground, terraqueous labyrinth.
Psycho-Rat escaped, and now lives in fear for his life should the government ever find him. He is willing to speak to the right people, but he can only say so much. I talked with him on numerous occasions, and the most incredible thing was that he had never contradicted himself. While I do not believe a word he said, I am still impressed he could keep his story straight. The last time I saw him — just before Wired went out of business circa 1998 — he had painted a picture, oils on canvas, of the White Dragon and sent the artwork to the Pope at the Vatican, whom Rat claimed would know what the image meant. I have no idea what the thing meant, if the Pope ever received the package, or where this psychotic man is now. Eleven years have since passed, and he has not turned up. Perhaps the government got him.
I did not dare walk by the entrance tonight in the freezing darkness, with a woman I hardly knew — not even her last name — and a corpse of some homeless asshole we affectionately dubbed Bumstead. We had just about reached the top of the hill. I decided to break the silence.
“So, Sam, do you have any idea what we’re doing?” Some reassurance would do wonders to calm my nerves.
“Yeah, we’re avoiding the consequences of youthful indiscretions.”
“Oh.” An interesting interpretation.
“Come on, a few more feet.”
Sure enough, there in front of us was exactly what we were looking for. A fresh grave, probably from just the day before. No casket in the pit yet, not until Thursday morning. Probably died on Tuesday — what kind of bastard dies on a Tuesday? No casket, but just a hole, about six feet deep, give or take. How this tradition of six feet started I have no idea — older graves are only about two feet deep — but gravediggers seem to follow the procedure pretty strictly nowadays.
“Let’s throw it in and get the fuck out of here.” I offered.
“Don’t you want to know who it is?”
“Not really, I want to wash my hands of this shit — now.” Seriously, the more I was unaware of, the more of a right I had to claim plausible deniability, by my reckoning.
“I want to know.”
She untied the bag with the man’s torso and reached in to pull out his wallet. Then she put the body, bag and all, into the hole. An arm flopped out, and the in the darkness the appendage managed to look even scarier than you would expect a severed arm to look. The white corpulent flesh — an even whiter shade of pale without the pumping blood — glowed almost yellow in the tinted moonlight. Funny to think how queasy the sight made me feel when there are bastards like Dahmer or Gacy who would be having their mouths water and their sexual appetites getting aroused right about now.
“Who is it?” I am aware I said I did not want to know, but curiosity gets the best of all of us.
She flipped through the leather wallet, taking out a few small bills and a photograph of some unidentified kid. She looked at the driver’s license and slipped the card into her pocket. Then the battered billfold went into the abyss with the rest of the remains, our own rudimentary memory hole.
“Who is it?” I repeated.
“Never heard of him — some Polish guy.”
“I don’t know any Polish guys.” This is probably not true. I’m not the Census Bureau, after all.
“Then you didn’t know this guy. Case closed.”
I wasn’t gonna fuck around and waste my time, I just wanted to get the flaming fig out of there. I grabbed her hand — moist and clammy in the creases of her palm — and headed back down the dusty trail. We only trekked about three minutes of the return journey before a flashlight was shining in my eyes.
“Freeze! Put up your hands!” came a disembodied female voice.
We did as the voice asked, and sure enough in front of us were two cops. One man, one woman. Beat cops, just two dumb officers doing some rounds. They did not know us or our situation; they knew nothing.
“Sorry, officers. We just wanted some peace and quiet.” I lead the conversation before Sam could speak and screw things up.
“This is not the place for that; don’t you have an apartment?” This was the male officer.
“Yeah, I do, I’m so sorry. Too much drinky, not enough thinky.” I was actually feeling considerably sober by now.
“Just give me your IDs and I’ll let you be.” This was the male officer again, apparently the dominant one of the couple.
I couldn’t risk the officers running my name and address over the radio; who knows what the dispatch might know by now? And even if they know nothing, I do not need to be a suspect later when the find the dismembered body.
“Officers, all I have for ID is my library card and this discount card for Ron’s Super-Saver.”
“Fine, you two get the hell out of here and if you’re quick I’ll pretend I never saw you.” The male officer fingered his gun, but never removed the weapon from the holster, providing just enough incentive for us to “get a move on”.
“Tank you, ossifer.” I have found by adding emphasis to fake drunkenness, they are more eager to let you go.
We hurried down the path, knowing only a few minutes would be passing before they had found what we had done and a potential chase would ensue. I was in no mood for their bullshit.
“Sam, let’s get back to the apartment and be done with this mess.” We both got back in the car and closed the doors.
Sam rested her hand on mine and stopped me from inserting my key in the ignition. “But Grant, there’s one more thing we have to do.”
“I’ll tell you back at the apartment — we can do what has to be done there, anyway.”
She stripped off her soiled shirt, threw the garment out the window, and I shifted into overdrive. We took off like a shot to my apartment, our makeshift safehouse.