Detective Michael Crawley walked into the precinct that morning with his bag slung carelessly around his shoulder, wrapped around his body, and holding a steaming Starbucks cup of coffee.
"Good morning Robin." He greeted his slightly new partner as she stared at him in annoyance, while tapping her foot impatiently in front of his office. "Are those kids still here?"
She nodded. He sighed at her silent treatment, and turned to look at her as he opened the door to his office. "Fine, I'm sorry I'm late." He stretched the cup of coffee towards her. "Peace offering."
She raised one perfectly coiffed brow and accepted the coffee with clear suspicion written on her very beautiful face. "Thank you."
He grunted his response. "Please bring the first one in. The sooner we crack this case, the faster my leave can begin."
He dropped his things on his desk, grabbed a recorder, jotter and pen, and made his way out of his office to the interrogation room. Thankfully, Robin was already there with a scared-looking young girl. Poor child! He thought. He shook his head, he had to see her for what she was- a murder suspect.
"Thank you Robin." He gently dismissed his partner, who was going to listen in on the interrogation from the one way glass separating the room from the outer office.
He cleared his throat and opened the file in front of him. It had all the girl's details, at least the ones available to the government. Her name read 'Shirley Mason', a senior at West High. He pressed the start button on the recorder and stared straight into the trembling girl's eyes.
"Why are we being held here? I know how the law works and it is illegal to arrest someone without proof." Her trembling disappeared, reinforcing the steel in her eyes as she stared at the Detective.
Mike smiled at her, betraying none of the irritation that spiked in his guts."You and your friends were trespassing on private property. I mean, there's a large sign warning people off right around the estate. Mrs Maxfield wants to press charges."
Shirley scoffed, not believing her ears. "That old hag should be grateful people actually considered her creepy estate fun enough for a little adventure."
Mike wasn't one for stereotypes, but staring at the girl, with a hard glint in her eyes, her obviously fake blonde hair, and the cheerleading uniform she donned, it was easy to see that she was a high school queen bee. "You asked a question and I answered. Now I want you to answer mine."
"I want my lawyer." Her gaze was defiant.
"And you shall have one as soon as your parents provide one. Until then, you need to answer my questions as honestly as you can. Do you understand me?"
She nodded, her body losing all the fight she seemed to have initially.
"Good! Now tell me what happened yesterday evening. And don't leave a single detail out."
Shirley huffed in tiredness, as she managed to catch up with her friend, and that was saying something seeing as she was an athlete with great resistance.
"Manny, why do we have to sneak in here? Widow Maxfield prohibits all unauthorized entry and you know it." Shirley tried to speak some sense into Manuel, their group leader.
Being a jock and the captain of the school's hockey team, Manuel 'Manny' was used to getting his own way most of the time, and that evening was no exception. He had suggested to their clique that afternoon at the school's cafeteria that he wanted them to try out an adventure in the Closed-off Maxfield estate. To make sneaking in easier, he had split the group into two. He and Shirley would take the Eastern wall, while Jerry and Mirinda would take the Western wall, and they would all congregate at the pond, near the entrance to the famous Maxfield maze; home to the fabled Maxfield ghost.
"What widow Maxfield doesn't know won't hurt her. Now hurry up and stop dawdling. Mirinda and Jerry must be waiting for us already." He dismissed her concerns while urging her to move faster and silently.
Within minutes, they reached the pond. Shirley scowled as she saw Jerry and Mirinda whispering so closely with each other, their faces a mere inch from kissing. She had always had a crush on Jerry for as long as she could remember, but he wouldn't even say a few sentences to her in private, unless they were with the rest of the crew. Yet, here he was, enjoying a tryst with Mirinda, the exotic black girl.
With a twisted sense of satisfaction, she watched as they broke apart when they noticed they were no longer alone.
"Manny, this is a bad idea. People stay away from this estate for a reason. Widow Maxfield locked the grounds away from trespassers for a reason." Jerry stood up and approached Manny, trying to make him see reason.
Manny laughed, but it had no joy or mirth. Just scorn. "Don't tell me you're afraid of that old midwives tale about the ghost of Mr Maxfield haunting the grounds."
None of his companions answered, each one choosing to look at the ground instead. Manny huffed and passed flashlights from his backpack to each of them. "We'll each take different directions in the maze. Be careful not to get lost. Let's meet back here in ten minutes. You'll see there's nothing to fear."
Mirinda shook her head but she took the flashlight nonetheless. "I don't like this Manny. Something feels off around here."
Manny rolled his eyes. "Perhaps it's the juju in your African blood."
Mirinda gasped, and Jerry looked downright murderous. Shirley forgot her initial jealousy of Mirinda and was offended on her friend's behalf. "Manny that's racist and rude."
Manny gave a half hearted apology and each of them eventually ventured into the maze. Although the sun hadn't set, the maze was ominously dark and chilly. Shirley flashed her torch against the shrubs that made up the hedges of the maze, frightening herself into believing something was following her. After a few minutes of mindless wandering, Shirley started making her way back to the entrance of the maze when she heard the scream. It was Manny's.
She dropped her flashlight as she burst into a run as fast as her legs could carry her. She came out of her path the same moment Mirinda came out of hers, with eyes blazing with fear. They raced towards Jerry, his back was to them, and they saw a bloodied knife dropping from his grip. He turned towards them, making way for them to see the crumpled bundle that lay beneath his feet.
Manny stared up at the girls with his green eyes, lifeless. Blood seeped out from numerous stab wounds on his body. Shirley bit back a sob by placing her hands over her mouth.
She turned to look at a blood stained Jerry. "Oh Jerry what did you do?"
Jerry shook his head with all the strength he could muster. "I swear, it wasn't me."
Mike looked at a now sobbing Shirley. He pushed the box of tissues towards her, she picked one with a mummured thank you and started wiping her tears with new found vigor.
"Do you think Jeremiah Stanton murdered Manuel Lopez?" He asked her bluntly.
She shook her head softly, but not with uncertainty. "That's the thing. I know the evidences point towards him, but Jerry would never hurt a fly."
"So, who do you think would hurt a fly?" He saw the uncertainty on her face. "It's alright, this is between you and I."
"Well, Mirinda was genuinely offended when he insulted her. And Mirinda can be very brazen whenever she feels oppressed, but I swear I saw no shock on her face."
Mike seemed to think about something for a while before he finally nodded. "That'll be all for now Miss Mason. Thank you for your time."
Mirinda Brown drew her hoodie closer to her as she shivered involuntarily. She wasn't cold, on the contrary, the interrogation room was somehow warm. But the piercing gaze of the Detective pretending to be nice rattled her. If she told him what she saw, would anyone believe her?
She was so lost in her reverie that she shook when Mike called out her name firmly. "Miss Brown, are you listening to me?"
She shook her head meekly. "I'm sorry, I got carried away for a moment."
"That's alright. Mirinda- may I call you Mirinda?"
She nodded, not returning his smile.
"So, Mirinda. For your own good, I want you to tell me all you remember about yesterday evening. Don't leave a single detail out please."
Mirinda looked at him and wondered if he would think she was crazy.
"I know when you have this look on your face, it means you are worried. Tell me, what's wrong this time?" Jerry asked her as they made their way towards the pond; the designated meeting place.
Mirinda shook her head, still lost in the embrace of her own thoughts.
Jerry stopped her with a hand on her her shoulder. She turned to stare into his handsome face with a gentle smile she reserved only for him. She liked him, but his heart had always belonged to another and she respected that.
"Mirinda, please tell me what's got you worried."
She pointed at the almost visible pond. "When we get there, I'll tell you."
They trudged on in silence. When they finally got to the pond, Mirinda was relieved that Manny and Shirley weren't there yet. She pulled Jerry down on the grass, and they both made their seats on the evergreen surrounding of the lake.
"I had another dream last night." She began.
"I think I started believing your dreams when Manny suddenly suggested coming here. I mean, what are the odds that he'll choose to come to the same place you've been dreaming about?"
"Jerry! I think the pale man I keep seeing is going to hurt one of us. The dreams are not clear, so I can't really say who."
Jerry sighed instead. "I really hope you're wrong though. What if it's me? Does that mean I won't be able to ask Shirley to go to prom with me? I've pined for her too long to lose her now."
Mirinda winced internally, but gave him a radiant smile as she moved closer to him.
"Want to hear a secret?" She whispered.
He gave a similar conspiratory smile and moved closer to her too. "What's that?"
"Shirley likes you too."
Before he could relish in the joy the new information gave him, Shirley and Manny appeared on the scene.
Jerry stood up immediately and tried to make Manny change his mind, but Manny was dead set on proving the tale wrong. He told them they would enter the maze, they'll take different paths, and they'll see there was nothing to fear.
Fearing her nightmare coming to life, Mirinda took the offered flashlight and tried to to dissuade Manny. "Manny, this is a bad idea. Something feels off around here."
The asshole had the gut to make a racist slur about her African descent. Mirinda fought the anger she felt as she wondered why she was ever friends with such a vile and shallow boy. She knew the answer; because of Jerry.
Shirley chastised him, and Mirinda threw her friend a grateful smile. Each person eventually took their own path in the dark maze. Mirinda could feel her heartbeat thumping loudly in the eerie silence of the maze. Suddenly, she stopped short when her flashlight illuminated the pale figure of a man standing in her path.
He placed a finger on his lip in the 'keep quiet' motion, and he disappeared in a mist, leaving her to almost believe she had imagined him. Still rooted to the spot, an earth curling scream rang through the air. Mirinda made a u-turn and ran towards the entrance to the maze. She almost collided with Shirley, who was coming out of her own path.
As they moved towards the sight in front of them, Mirinda knew what she would see, for had she not dreamt of it for many nights? She was only sorry she lied to Jerry about not knowing who it was supposed to be.
Mike stared at the girl in front of hìn with incredulity. "You mean to tell me you think a ghost murdered your friend, and that you dreamt of it before hand?"
Mirinda wasn't surprised about his disbelief. She would have actually been shocked if he had believed her. She nodded only, since she couldn't trust herself not to break down should she open her mouth one more time.
"Let's assume I believe this incredible tale, why didn't you warn him or inform someone about his sudden plans to drag you all into trespassing?"
Mirinda shrugged. "I've answered all your questions. I'm not saying anything not related to the case.".
Mike had a lot of retorts on the tip of his tongue, but he had to keep it down when his partner opened the door to the interrogation room. She signaled with her head that he should meet him outside.
Mike stood up and stared at the seemingly indifferent girl. "I'll be right back."
She gave no reaction, and it was as if she did not know anyone but herself was in the room. Mike sighed and made his way to his waiting partner.
"Hey Robin. What's up?"
Robin's face looked grim and Mike knew what she was going to say. "All their lawyers and parents are here. The Browns are insisting you stop interrogating the girl or there would be hell to pay. The Stantons are adamant that you can't question their son until tomorrow, in the presence of his lawyer."
Mike swore in colorful languages that would make a sailor blush. "Tell them I can't release the kids."
Robin looked even grimmer and he didn't know that was even possible. "Actually, widow Maxfield called. She's no longer pressing charges against the children. They're free to go now. So, you'll have to release them to go home, and only invite them here if you have a question."
"Damn it!" Mike hit his fist against the wall in a moment of unsupressed rage.
Carolyn Maxfield set the table for her sleeping guest. Her joy knew no bounds, and she had extended the joyfulness to those dastardly kids by calling the precinct that she was no longer pressing charges. They had suffered enough for one night.
Oh yes, they have. How dare they barge into her sanctuary? Her only place of peace. But she suddenly let go of the surge of anger as she remembered what their stupidity and childish adventures had done for her.
She hummed to herself as she poured juice into his old favorite cup. He was sure he would be pleased to finally be able to drink from that tumbler again. She had the previous evening to thank for that.
She remembered the previous evening because it would forever be etched in her memory.
Carolyn Maxfield jolted awake suddenly. She knew the only reason her heart raced like that was because there were trespassers on her property. She knew the people thought she was stupid for not installing an alarm system, when she obviously wanted to keep people out.
Little did they know that due to the ancient ritual of blood, her body and soul were connected to the estate. She was the alarm system.
She stood up and slowly made her way to the room in the tallest tower in her modest castle. Theirs had been a flourishing estate; with tenants and tourists who loved to pay to take a walk through the Maxfield estate - the last proof of an ancient civilization.
Unfortunately, she lost her husband-Grayson Maxfield to a terrible crime: murder. He drowned in the pond near the maze at the hands of his most trusted worker: Daniel Lopez, and his restless spirit haunted the maze ever since.
Bound to the lands, just as she, he couldn't really pass onto the afterlife unless he lived his life to the end. This was a feat that could only be achieved by taking over the body of his murderer or any one that bore his blood.
People thought she sealed the estate due to her grief, little did they know that the estate, having lost one of its source of life, sealed itself and preserved his spirit, till he could take a body again.
Getting to the tallest tower, Carolyn saw all three kids wandering aimlessly in her maze, while the fourth one tarried at the entrance of the maze. Probably too much of a coward. But something about his curly black hair and olive skin tone made her look again. Why! The boy was the spitting image of Daniel Lopez.
Before she could smile though, she saw the pale man appear beside him. He took him and stabbed him in rapid successions, that she could barely see the hands move at all, while the boy gave a shattering scream.
Her guest groaned, signifying he was awake. She took in the face of the boy that looked exactly like the man who murdered her husband and smiled at him with all happiness.
He looked surprised but he returned her smile too. He touched his face with his hands and brought down his palms to stare at them with awe.
Not being able to contain her joy, she moved towards him with her hands held out.