The Darkroom Mystery

Morgan, a young adventurer with a gorgeous girlfriend by his side, has it all. But his world is turned upside down when his friend tells him of a closed off tunnel deep inside the mine quarry only miles from his home. After much work, he and his freinds make it to the quiet mining town and despite a prophetic warning from a local, they enter the tunnel. The deeper they go, the more they realize how in trouble they are. Soon, they are caught up in a world of political cover-ups, treasure, greed and the unshakable predicament of death itself.


1. The Legend

As the pancake batter hit the griddle, sizzled and began to bubble, the luxurious smell floated to me and woke me up. I was reluctant to wake up but I had to so I could stay on schedule for the day ahead. I wrenched my eyes open and the sun that was leaking through the window made me shut them again. After a moment, I pulled myself out of bed and grabbed my glasses from their perch on my bed side table. As I passed the mirror on the way out, I snagged a look at myself. I ran my hands through my wild, curly hair and lathered sunscreen over my caramelized skin and my sinewy arms. Then, pulling my sweat stained ball cap over my head, I headed into the kitchen. As I walked in, I saw my girlfriend Ashley standing in the kitchen flipping pancakes onto a paper plate. I snuck up quietly behind her and lifted her up by the stomach. Surprised, she turned around and our lips connected. As we kissed, I remembered the primary reason we were still dating after a year: we had so much in common and she was such a great kisser. When I put her down, I examined her intensely. She was wearing a bikini, obviously ready to go swimming at a moment’s notice.  Her long legs and core were well formed from years of swimming, canoeing and running. The gorgeous bone structure of her face was well formed and framed by wisps of her thick brown hair. Her eyes were a piercing blue and her buoyant lips were inlaid with a poisonous red lipstick, making her face glisten. As she said good morning, I said, “Well hello Tyra Banks!” She looked slightly disappointed and when I asked why she said, her mouth poised in poutiness, “She is all plastic no action.” I roared with laughter and we began to hug and laugh. Only a few moments later, the phone rang out in a shrill monotone. We were stunned by the sudden break of silence and stared at it for a moment or two, but after a second I picked it up. “Hello, who is this?” Suddenly, a loud voice crackled to life on the other end and said, “Bro, it is me Ty, your childhood friend. Listen, I know you got your girlfriend with you but you won’t believe what I might have found yesterday. Can I come over in like two minutes, and besides, I have not eaten yet.” I laughed and asked Ashley, who immediately nodded, eager to take on a new challenge. I had not so much as said goodbye that I heard bike tires screech in the driveway. As Ashley laid out the breakfast, I went to pull open the screen door. There, framed in the doorway, was Ty. He had been my childhood friend at the cottage who I had grown up with until age nine, at which point we fell apart. When we were five, we became best friends, spending all summer at the cottage diving and having adventures in the campground (occasionally going to the Beachside Café for a cone). When I was about nine, we met a newcomer to the cottage experience, John. I at once distasted him, as he had a dirt bike and liked to drag Ty with him on gruelling three hour bike adventures that made our “adventures” at the campground, look like a walk in the park. We continued to hang out over the next few years, but I noticed that the closer to John he got, he began to change. He was now darker then I remembered him, almost possessed, swearing on occasion, mistreating his parents. Occasionally I would try and remind him of whom he really was, that is a good guy, the guy I spent my entire childhood knowing. But my efforts were in vain, John would not let me get a word in edge wise. Though, over the years, he is no longer the kid I knew, there was the occasional flickers of hope that I nurtured into a large fire. When we were alone, he was who I remembered: a kid who had real fun, a kid who was content with diving for rocks all day long and later to have a sleepover at his best friend’s house, a kid who was content with attempting to dam the swollen ditch that dumped into the lake and not sneaking into private properties on the beach front. Just last summer though, John and his family had left the cottage as John and his brother were sent to military camp in Northern Alberta and the family was sent to live there. Ty had been freed of John’s influential grasps and I began the painstaking, laborious process of refurbishing Ty to his former glory. Ironically, both Ty and I, loving the cottage, decided to move there shortly after graduation from high school. I spent the summer bringing him up to become the guy I knew he was, a good friend who stayed loyal to his parents and friends alike. Over the course of that summer, I introduced him to life changing activities which changed both of our perspectives on life. I had taken him on a canoe trip during which time we had gotten caught in a Lake Manitoba squall and both nearly drowned as we dangerously careened our way back to shore and safety and it ended in him getting a concussion. In the fall, I had taken him on a hunting trip which could have proved fatal if we had not acted quickly to the broad head arrow which had pierced my hand dangerously close to several arteries. Then, I had taken him on an ice fishing excursion just a few hundred yards from my cottage, in which he almost died. I remember clearly that experience as it was one of the most catastrophic experiences that had ever stained my memories. It was late March and there was about six inches of ice on the water, enough to walk on safely. That day though, the water that had been on the ice just a day before had frozen in the night, making the water as slippery as an eel. I remember heading out there early in the morning, full of hot cocoa. As we walked across the lake wearing our ice cleats, we reached the ice bridge a few hundred yards away. The ice had pushed its way up and cracked a gaping hole five feet across in the lake. The hole that was formed was three feet deep, and at the bottom of the gorge was a layer of opaque ice. As Ty stepped across, I noticed his ice cleat slip off and quickly blow away in the wind. I tried to warn him, but he hopped across fearlessly. As he cleared the gap, the back of his boot slipped on the overhanging ice of the gorge, and without an ice cleat to break his fall, he slid straight into the gorge. It all happened in painfully slow motion as I watched Ty fall the three feet into the gorge and, to my disgust, the ice cracked and he slid into the black water. I stepped across to the edge of the gorge and yelled into the black. Suddenly, breaking the still and freezing water, Ty bobbed up screaming. His skin was blue, and he gasped desperately for air, his breath short. He went back under and, reacting quickly, I pulled him up by the armpits and threw him onto the ice. I slapped him in the face to continue the blood flow and I tied him up to the sled. Working with almost inhuman power, I powered through the snow to the cottage. Immediately after getting him inside, I forced the door shut. I helped him into warm clothes as his skin turned a sickly dark blue. After a few hours and a lot of heat (so much I often had to step outside), he was back to normal. Falling back to the present, Ty walked across the room and pulled me into a brotherly hug. Returning the affection, Ty said, “And I have not formally met this young lady.” He held out his hand with chivalry and she shook it accordingly, flattered. After we made short introductions, we sat down to breakfast. As I cut into the tenderly cooked pancakes I noticed a heavy tensor bandage around Ty’s knee and I could see it was drenched in dried blood. I indicated it and said, “Where in the hell did you get that?” His mouth was full of food so he swallowed politely and began, “I got that battle wound while I was attempting to explore that place I was telling you about. It is pretty deep into the quarry, and some bush whacking was necessary. It was getting dark when I reached the hole and I had dropped my flashlight into some bush about a mile away, so I went in blind, literally. I slid into the hole, the only entry and there was a piece of rusty copper wire sticking out and I must have snagged it. The adrenaline rush was so intense that I did not even notice it until I got home.”  I leaned back in my chair, thinking things through. After a moment, I came level with Ty and said, “Tell us everything else you know about it.” He thought for a moment and then grabbed a paper napkin and pen, which he unfolded to its full size and began to draw furiously. He drew a shaky handed path to the X, which was the tunnel he had found. Then, on the back side, he had drawn what looked like a basement layout with blackness on one side, which he had labelled with a large question mark, indicating that was as far as he had gotten. He explained that it was on a hill overlooking the quarry lake and how it was a flat concrete foundation with a hole, and how it appeared to be a military testing barrack. After he had finished, he sat back. Without a word, I got up and headed over to the bookcase. I grabbed a thick, leather bound book called History of The Stormy Waters. I flicked it open to a chapter called Industrial Revenue in the 20th Century. Ty and Ashley looked over my shoulder as I read an excerpt: “During its hey-day, there used to be hundreds of entries into the quarry tunnels and many were closed off after the mine closed. However, there is a conspiracy theory that when the quarry went bankrupt, the Canadian Corps paid huge money to buy out a section of the quarry to the southwest as it was the deepest section. It burrowed down as deep as 10,000 feet at which point they tested bombs, which explains why that section of the tunnel was blocked off as the rock had fallen in.” I tore out the page which had a detailed map of the quarry, shoved it in my pocket and shut the book. I said, “So Ty, you were right. If we are talking about the right tunnel, this thing was a military barrack. But, as we won’t know until we try so let’s gear up and get the hell out of dodge!” We all cheered and ran to pack up. Ashley dressed in long khaki shorts and a V-Neck long sleeve T-Shirt, wearing her bikini underneath. Ty was wearing tattered jeans and a sweat drenched shirt. As the adventurer of the crew, my wardrobe was a little more elaborate. I was wearing long khaki pants with several baggy pockets, long wool socks, a tight fitting T-Shirt and my hiking boots. I slipped on biking gloves and strapped on my helmet; then grabbing my bag (including food, towels, clothes, climbing rope, lighter, flashlight and four man tent) I headed out. I chucked my bag to Ashley, who tumbled gracefully down the stairs to tie it down. Remembering I had forgotten my gun, which I had bought in America, I ran into my room and pulled open the door to the cupboard by my bed (with difficulty, as it was very old). I felt around in the back until my hand grasped a small box, which I pulled out. There were 20 bullets in the case, so I shoved them into the bag and wrapped them tightly in a towel. With that, I closed the curtain to my room and headed for the deck stairs. As I vaulted them powerfully, I heard Ashley yelling by the shore. Curious, I jogged down the mossy path to the beach. Just last year, the government had sent all of the excess water rushing into our lake, making it the worst man-made flood in 100 years. We sandbagged like mad-men, working straight sometimes for 8 or more hours. We saved the cottage but it was truly a Pyrrhic victory because when the water receded, it took the grass and rocks that had been covering the ground on the beach and left us bare of grass or top soil. Using the sand from the sandbags, we made a spectacular sand beach, our pride and joy. I hit the top of the berm and, feeling spontaneous I kicked my shoes off and dove off the top. As I landed, the cool sand curled beneath my toes, it felt great and a wave of happiness overcame me. I slipped my shoes back on and saw Ashley waving me at the shore. As I neared, I saw Ty in the water failing in his attempt to pull the canoe ashore. I walked over and helped him, and as we shored it I asked, “What’s wrong with the bikes?” Ashley replied, “Well, I read in one of those magazines in your bathroom that rowing burns more calories so we are rowing.” I agreed and we chucked a rope in the front of the canoe and put the bag in the middle. Then, we pushed off into the clear blue water.  

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