Hastily, he knelt down and looked for a handle of some sort, all the while removing leaves and woodchips from the wooden door. When he found the latch, he had to tug hard at it before it gave way. Part of him desperately wanted to rush down the steep staircase at his feet, so sure that this must be where Matthew kept his live prey. But he was afraid, and his feet wouldn’t move at first.
He descended the stairs and discovered he was standing at the edge of some elaborate bunker. Choking on the stench of death, he took his next steps into the abyss. He thought of calling for help, and knew it was protocol to do just that, but something stopped him. He needed to do this on his own.
Pontieff turned his flashlight on and kept walking. The deeper he went into the bunker, the darker it got. He was still able to make out several chambers equipped with hooks, chains, and tools he wasn’t prepared to name or imagine their uses. When he finally came upon the slight body hanging from a metal rafter, he knew it was the woman-child he was seeking.
He worked furiously to get her horizontal, lying her down on the cold, damp mud floor. He nearly dropped her, his hands covered with sludge, the sickly combination of vomit and blood. He turned away from Jane's body and heaved.
On his knees now, he stared at her hoping for any sign of life. But he knew he was too late. Jane was gone.
At her feet, the large man wept. I’m sorry, Jane . . . he whispered, for no one's ears but his own.
A moment passed before Pontieff appeared at the bottom steps of the make-shift staircase. In the Sheriff's arms was nestled the lifeless, fragile body which he carried to ground level like precious cargo. The only sound to break the dead air were those of the black birds circling above, while Crier and Harlow watched the dismal procession from a few feet away.