I think this happened about a year and a half after what happened to Anthony. I like going to storage auctions, it was a hobby I picked up from an ex. He was obsessed with going through people’s junk. Sometimes he found some really good stuff though, I was there when he stumbled across a baseball card worth a couple grand. I still find such treasure hunting to be a lot of fun.
This time I didn’t spend too much, only putting down seventy five dollars on one of the lockers near the end. All that was inside was a few cardboard boxes and a bike missing its back wheel. I was just digging through one of those boxes when I found it.
My fingers just brushed against something smooth and it was like being struck with a lightning bolt. I fell to the ground, laying there helplessly as I attempted to gasp in a full breath. It took me almost a minute to manage to get back up. Much more carefully, I removed other items from the box to uncover this unexpected treasure I’d found.
A scarlet silk scarf with a small brooch pinned to it. Touching the scarf itself didn’t produce an effect like last time so I fished it out to get a better look at the brooch. It was designed to look like a peacock feather, all the gems being fakes except for the exceptionally perfect sapphire in the center. Once again, I’d somehow managed to stumble across one of these damn trinkets.
So I did what any reasonable private investigator would do and started to look into the previous owner of the storage locker. Luckily with all the things inside the locker, it actually wasn’t too hard to find young Dustin ‘Dusty’ Silver.
Dusty was a child from a broken home, dropped out of high school his senior year and began working in the dish room of a greasy spoon called Roger’s Dish. First impression was that he fancied himself a rockstar, all the pictures I found of him as an adult had him with pierced ears and long bleached hair. He did actually have a small band called Muse of Miracles. The only real ‘miracle’ was managing to listen to this garbage, I had the misfortune of stumbling across their first album in the storage locker. Five tracks later and I wanted to pop my own eardrums with an ice pick.
I was confused as to why I couldn’t find any of his stuff on the internet though. This is the twenty first century, nowadays most musicians at least have a YouTube channel or a Bandcamp account.
I decided to dig a little deeper. After all, if something is ever on the internet, it is there forever. Certainly makes my job a lot easier. Turns out they did used to have a YouTube channel, they just took it down after the drama went down.
And by drama, I mean after Dusty came into possession of the damn brooch.
Obviously the band wasn’t exactly raking in the dough. I’m surprised they got any gigs with how awful their guitarist was. Well, said guitarist ended up quitting, leaving Dusty and his drummer Joe hanging. In the following month Dusty got fired from his job for turning up drunk for the third time. Apparently the first two times were either excusable or he was really good at scrubbing dishes. His credit cards were maxed out, he was about to be kicked out of his apartment. He was desperate.
There was a robbery of a local jewelry store two weeks after Dusty got fired. The robbers wore masks but their build did match Joe’s and Dusty’s. Joe had also happened to work there before, he’d lost the job after getting caught sneaking out the back with a pair of diamond earrings.
This is around the same time when Dusty added something new to his performance wardrobe- a scarf wrapped around his waist like a belt with, you guessed it, a peacock feather brooch. I was never able to get my hands on an inventory list of what was stolen from the shop, but it doesn’t take a genius to put the two and two together.
It was an overnight change. I managed to find a poor quality video clip of a later concert and I have to say, from what Muse of Miracles used to be? It was so much better. I could even consider it good. Probably helped that they’d gotten not one, but two new members of the band. A new guitarist and a keyboard player.
The guitarist was Joe’s highschool sweetheart, Ginger Calle. Cutie with a round face and pink hair, Ginger also provided back up vocals for Dusty. She was quite talented, I imagine she could’ve gone off to do a lot more with her life. The keyboard player I have very little on, only that her name was Misty and that she was a homeless busker before she moved in with Dusty.
His concerts seemed to actually have some mild success. I suppose getting actual talent in the band helps, but Dusty had become the major draw for the female fans. All he had to do was brush his fingers against a cute girl’s arm and she was practically jumping into his lap. This actually happened during his concerts. He called it his hump break as he groped and fondled some clearly ecstatic groupies on stage.
I don’t think any of these women could be considered sober. That’s what troubled and disgusted me the most about these videos. Rumors that Dusty would take the prettiest fans back to his van were the most unsettling. He was a perv.
Dusty scraped up enough cash to buy a house about four months after coming into possession of the brooch. Likely these were from donations from die hard fans, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he took part in more robberies to make up the difference. However I’ve yet to find any hard evidence for that latter theory.
A week after that, the first fan was reported to vanished into thin air.
Pearl ‘Pearlie’ Smith. Named after her great grandmother. Just turned eighteen. Worked part time at a local coffee shop. Her taste in music taste ranged from bubblegum pop to the most hardcore of screamo metal. She wanted to be a fantasy author and was halfway through editing her first book.
Then one day she got on the bus to go to work and never showed up. She’d never been late in the past so Pearlie’s boss called her mother to see if she was ill. When they both realized that the girl had vanished, the police were called in. A responsible girl like Pearlie just disappearing was enough to put off anyone, although Pearlie’s deceased father being a cop killed in the line of duty certainly didn’t hinder. They were responsible for the daughter of a friend.
This is where I started finding more disturbing threads to chase. See, Pearlie might’ve been the only one reported missing, but that didn’t mean other women didn’t disappear.
But the fact that two other women disappeared on the same day as Pearlie definitely didn’t seem like a coincidence.
The first one was twenty year old Cameron Spicer. She’d been arrested for prostitution and there was suspicions of drug abuse in her past, but she finally seemed to be getting things together when she also left for work and didn’t make it to her destination. The second girl was Lisa Moore, a nineteen year old preparing for college and just celebrated her third year anniversary on dating her boyfriend, Kevin Vere. Kevin and Lisa had a screaming fight the day she stormed out and never came back. For the first two days Kevin thought she was with her parents. Then her parents called asking if Lisa was all right as she hadn’t responded to their texts and calls.
You can guess the one thing they had in common I assume, but the cops didn’t piece it together for a few more months… even when more girls went missing.
Some of these other women weren’t fans of Muse of Miracles, probably making it harder for the cops at the time to connect the dots. Mary Thompson certainly wasn’t, the only music she listened to was the piano she played every Sunday at her church. Dawn Silver had been born completely deaf. Trista Jourdan listened to hip hop and rap and hadn’t even been near any of the bars the nights Dusty played.
Fourteen women went missing over the course of six months. All had vanished while they were out and about with their errands or occupation. The oldest was was forty nine (Rosa Foster, an accountant) and the youngest was sixteen (Lydia Weeks, a highschool drop out.) I was a little sick when I realized how young she was.
They only caught a break because Joe got kicked out of the band. He only found out he was booted from the act when Dusty announced on their Facebook page that they had a brand new drummer, Jade Decker. This apparently gave Joe that ‘change of heart’ when he went to the police and told them he saw Pearlie at Dusty’s house.
Joe had gone by to pick up some music that Dusty had just finished writing when he literally ran into Pearlie. The teenager was only wearing a pair of ragged white boxers that were far too big for her slender frame and was helping herself to a bowl of cereal. When Joe had asked if she was okay, all she did was smile and nod before heading to the basement. Joe heard the door lock behind her.
The cops swarmed the place. This was the only lead they had on Pearlie. They didn’t expect to break open that basement door and find over a dozen women, all wearing the bare minimum of clothing and apparently drugged. Both Jade and Ginger were there as well.
The only people that weren’t were Dusty and Misty. They’d high tailed it out of there not an hour before.
This was around the time I believe Dusty ditched the brooch in the storage locker. I couldn’t tell you why. Neither can he.
Two days later they found him to a cheap motel room, dead for about twenty four hours. Misty was lounging next to his corpse while cradling the gun used to end his life. She took out another cop before they put her down. They found a suicide note saying that he just couldn’t go to jail and that each of those girls went with him because they wanted him.
Each of those poor women needed a lot of therapy to overcome what they’d gone through. I know that Cameron changed her name and went off the grid. Unfortunately both Mary and Lisa committed suicide, Mary by swallowing a fistful of pills and Lisa by hanging herself.
Out of all of them that I managed to contact, I didn’t expect Pearlie to actually respond.
The poor girl had been in a mental hospital since she’d been rescued six months prior. She did look much better than she did in the footage I saw of her being led out of Dusty’s house and was quite relaxed as she directed me to have a seat. We were out on the grounds, enjoying some fresh air.
“You seem… well,” I started off the conversation.
“This is a good day.” Pearlie shrugged, twirling a strand of her hair. “On other days I’m still under the impression I’m on this earth to serve the Muse. Or I’m trying to kill myself.”
“Serve him?” I took out my pen and paper. “Tell me if you need to stop at any time or if you want to skip a question.”
Pearlie’s smile was weak but sincere. “Listen, there’s nothing you can’t ask that hasn’t been before. Thanks for not being a shithead though.”
“Let’s start then. When you were abducted, were you drugged?”
“If it was by a needle or by pills, I can’t tell you.” The girl’s gaze went glassy. “I know he had to have given me something. I just don’t know what. My memory’s pretty spotty. Probably for the best, I heard Mary had some things come back bright and vivid. It’s why she’s… not here.”
I nodded. “When you were there, did you feel Dustin was evil?”
“Wow, that’s a new one.” Pearlie blinked a few times before laughing. “Seriously, most people ask me what it was like being close to evil, not… not if I felt evil.” She thought for a few moments before she slowly nodded. “Yeah, evil was the best way to describe it. It was just sinister, dark, always around him. He wasn’t like that when I first saw him in concert.”
“It was like he was building up,” I guessed, “That he just got worse and worse.”
“Oh, I could go on for hours about that,” Pearlie snorted, “Especially when he had me in his basement. He wanted to try everything- and I mean everything.”
“I don’t need details.” I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out the handkerchief that had the broach inside. “But I need you to confirm- is this the brooch he wore?”
I unfolded it and a wave of revulsion flooded Pearlie’s face. She turned her whole body away as she began to shake. “Put it away! Please!” She begged.
Immediately I folded the handkerchief up and put it back in my pocket. “I’m sorry.”
“… You’re not going to use it on me are you?”
Pearlie bit her fingernails as she eyed my pocket. “The doctors say it’s part of the trauma, but that brooch, whenever he wore it-I had to do whatever he asked.” She pulled down the front of her shirt, revealing thin scars across her chest. “He made me do this to myself. He held that brooch above my head and handed me a razor, ordering me to cut myself until I couldn’t take it. He did the same to Dawn and Mary. Whoever gave themselves the most cuts loved him more… I… I won.” Her head hung. “I fucking won the worst prize in the universe.”
I shook my head. “No. I’m not here to use this brooch. I’m here to find the other parts of the set.” I made sure the doctors weren’t too close before I leaned in. “This is the third piece I found. These things, they change people. Change them into evil. I’m trying to find if there’s any others.”
The girl’s eyes went wide as saucers. “You believe me?” She whispered.
“I do.” I got up. “Visiting hours are almost over. Thank you, Pearlie. I’ll find any other of these trinkets and make sure they can’t hurt anyone else.”
“Then there’s something you should know.”
Pearlie beckoned me down to her level. I leaned in and she whispered into my ear,
“The gun Misty used to blow Dusty’s brains out and shoot that officer- it’s a part of that set. She snuck it with her when Dusty threw her in the basement, and when she cradled it… I felt the same evil from the brooch coming from that gun.”