"Been worse than usual, lately." Mr. Henry, the old gravedigger, leaned on his shovel and gave a nod toward the rows of markers in Allegheny Cemetery. Jacob could see where a dozen or so graves had recently been disturbed. Those with mortsafes had managed to trap their desperate undead residents in the ground, instead of keeping grave robbers out. Rotting corpses lay beneath the cage of iron bars sunk into the ground over the graves. Most still twitched, or groaned unsettlingly.
"How about the ones that didn't dig themselves out?" Mitch asked, pointing to a few graves that definitely appeared to have been opened by the living.
The gravedigger shrugged. "No idea. Seems kinda strange, picking odd ones here and there. But they're gone," he added. "Took the whole casket. Didn't make a mess of things."
"The graves that were dug out by someone else, did they have anything in common?" Mitch pressed.
Again, Mr. Henry shrugged. "Not that I can see. Weren't related, if that's what you mean. Have a look for yourself at the headstones. I've got to clean all this up." He sighed. "Old Mr. Kemmer is up for the third time in as many weeks."
Mitch thanked the Mr. Henry, then he and Jacob began to walk across the cemetery's rolling hills. Jacob wrinkled his nose. The stench of decay was unmistakable. "Got a theory?"
Mitch shook his head. "Nothing yet. Just observations. I'm willing to bet we've got two different forces at work here, and we don't know enough to guess whether they're working together or not."
Jacob nodded. "Grave robbers, and a necromancer."
Mitch grimaced, catching a particularly strong whiff of sun-warmed zombie. "Necromancer, dark warlock, or maybe something else—I heard the Romanians were working on an energy projector that could force the dead to speak. We don't know what we're up against, and that drives me crazy."
"Why would a necromancer call up zombies that couldn't get out of their graves?" Jacob mused. "Not very effective. Alerts everyone to the fact that you're around, but doesn't get you any evil undead minions."
"And if you can make the dead dig themselves out, why send people to rob the grave?" Mitch asked, as they walked up to one of the plots that had been disturbed. "Seems more risky to send people in to do the work if you can just get the dead to bring themselves to wherever you are."
"Thomas Bakewell," Jacob said, looking at the tombstone. "Not a recent death. Eighteen sixty-six. Can't imagine he was in great shape after all that time."
Mitch frowned. "And he's one the grave robbers took. Maybe that's why. Maybe he couldn't get out by himself. But why him?" Mitch took a small tablet out of his coat pocket and began to make notes as they surveyed the damaged graves. Jacob read off the names and dates of death, and Mitch wrote them down, as well as any unique epitaphs. They catalogued six more sites where the departed had dug themselves out, as well as a mausoleum where the zombie had tried and failed to bend the iron door to escape.
"Bernard Lauth," Jacob said as they came up to another robbed grave. "He's pretty recent. Eighteen ninety-four."
"That name rings a bell, but I can't place it," Mitch said. "Anyone else?" Their inventory of the newly undead had taken them deep into the large cemetery, toward a large stretch of forest that ran along one side of the cemetery.
"One more—another robbery," Jacob said. "George Ferris. He's also recent—just two years ago."
"Ferris? Like the Ferris wheel?" Mitch asked.
Jacob shrugged. "Maybe. Adam Farber would know."
Mitch started to answer when a low, feral growl came from the darkness of the trees. He and Jacob exchanged a warning glance, and both agents drew their guns at the same time, leveling them at the stretch of forest. In the next breath, a dozen rotting corpses broke from the tree line, heading straight for them. Some of the zombies were well-preserved. They moved the fastest. Others were ravaged by time or poor embalming, cheeks sunken, eyes hollow, clothing from decades in the past. They shambled, as if whatever propelled them could barely make their badly decomposed bodies function.
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Grave Voices (Haunted)Adventure
A Steampunk novella excerpt. The Department of Supernatural Investigation steps in when things go wrong in weird ways. When monsters start prowling the streets of New Pittsburgh, a shady monster hunter charges a fat fee to exterminate the creatures...