Available Darkness: Chapter 15
(Serial and Milk: Available Darkness is a serialized thriller co-written by David Wright and Sean Platt. A new chapter appears here each Friday. If you missed previous chapters, you can read them here.)
Baldwin was hard pressed to remember a bigger bunch of fuck-ups than the local law enforcement he was currently saddled with.
How could they blow a felony stop like that?
After processing the crime scene with his team and deftly maneuvering through a media blitzkrieg, Baldwin retreated to the rolling headquarters seeking relief from the throbbing headache cleaving his concentration to pieces. Fuck, his lip twitched in involuntary anger. His pill bottle was empty and too many miles from its nearest hookup. He lowered his head and unleashed a string of muttered curses, chastising himself for not planning ahead. He prided himself on always being prepared.
He stared at the reports canvassed across two open laptops. He had already spent 20 minutes staring at the screens earlier, but it didn’t make the impossible any easier to swallow. Every eyewitness account read exactly like something from the X-Files. From the ‘monster’ who had burned two people near to vapor, to the van that snatched the little girl and shot the cop, this case was quickly mounting to a massive clusterfuck.
Weight on the carpet outside his office pulled Baldwin’s attention to the doorway. Agent Garcia was standing in the doorstep. He’d been dealing with a half dozen reporters and looked visibly battered, broken and maybe even burned from the glowing coals they’d spent the evening dragging him across.
“The press are asking about the video, and they are demanding to speak to you.”
“The video at the house?”
Garcia shook his head and nodded towards the bank of monitors just past Baldwin’s laptops, a flashing mosaic of local and national news feeds. Baldwin followed Garcia’s gaze. All but one of the channels was broadcasting varying frames from the same video; shaky footage starring the same leading man from the home video earlier. Only this time, he was bloodied and battered. The suspect was standing on top of his victim, hand fused to the man’s torso as the victim melted to cinders in an embarrassment of seconds.
“Jesus Christ,” Baldwin stood from his chair and leaned forward toward the bank of monitors, “where the fuck did they get that?!”
“Some kid with his cell phone,” Garcia shook his head. “Punk ass caught the whole thing.”
“And none of us have it?”
Baldwin wanted to punch something, a slab of concrete would’ve been nice. Given the opportunity, he could have squashed the video. Now it was too late. The genie was out of the bottle. With every asshole and their brother armed with cell phones with video cameras and proliferation of so-called citizen journalists, it was becoming increasingly harder to control information. There was nothing he could do now except question the video’s authenticity and hope nobody else was walking around with a different angle.
“Tell them no comment until we get the original video. Then… get me the goddamned video!” Baldwin barked as he slammed his fists down on the table and the laptops jumped two inches before falling back into place.
Garcia left and Baldwin sank back in his seat. Outside, the world was splitting at the seams. Somebody had better find a way to keep it all together, because Baldwin sure as hell wasn’t feeling up to the job. He needed a nap. Pills and sleep, in that order.
He absentmindedly twisted his wedding ring, pondering the grainy image of the killer on the screens.
Though the video suggested the supernatural, Baldwin had been on the job too long and had seen too much. His team specialized in the unknown and had worked hundreds of cases that seemed to offer no reasonable explanation at the outset. ‘Alien’ abductions, monsters, fucking Sasquatch, you name it, Baldwin had worked it. Each and every time the agency had been able to articulate a reasonable explanation. When his own team couldn’t unpack a logical answer, it was kicked upstairs to a more specialized unit who always made sense of the senseless.
He wasn’t too proud to hope for a monster. A demon would make his quest for justice romantic rather than the up at dawn, never ending, soul swallowing quixotic siege it now felt like.
He watched the monitors as the stations hit the top of the hour and started replaying the scene again and again. His right leg wouldn’t stop bouncing.
The phone vibrated inside his pocket, making Baldwin imagine for just a moment he was having a heart attack. He breathed a near silent fuck as he looked at the phone’s screen to see who was calling – it was Bob Cromwell, his direct superior.
“Why is this goddamned video on my every channel?” Cromwell asked, almost as if it were a question.
Baldwin brought him up to speed. The case was ice this morning, and had only grown frostier. Not only did they now have a missing child and a murderer, but a cop killing and a new kidnapping to deal with as well. Baldwin could barely imagine how the case could possibly get any more fucked up, so he swallowed hard and closed his eyes, preferring not to tempt fate.
“We need to talk,” Cromwell said. “How soon can you be here?”
Baldwin sighed and came out the other end with a quick calculation, “About four hours.”
“Meet me at my house. I have something to show you.”
Baldwin stared at the phone for a full minute after the call. What was so important that Cromwell wanted him there in the middle of the night during the largest news story to hit the east coast in five years?
Well, at least he was homeward bound. Soon enough he would be sharing city limits with his bottle of pills.
John was driving north along the highway following nothing but a shadow flocked road of instinct, hoping to find his way back to Abigail. His quest to pinpoint a van which she may or may not still be in and that he had not even seen, save for in the stored memories of one of his victims, seemed only slightly more likely than him finding a police escort to help him with the search.
As he punished the car to drive faster, a rising bile in his gut told him to flip the car in the opposite direction – he was going the wrong way and piling the distance between himself and Abigail.
Instincts like dim reception overruled the nagging fear and pushed him forward. He obeyed.
While he had cautiously flown by a few squad cars, none had taken notice of him. Yet.
An exit sign overhead caught his attention, sending a sudden current between his temples. Get off here. Driving in the far left lane, John checked his rearview and began to merge right. The lane was clear and then…
Darkness. He was in a dark room, bound and…
Only it wasn’t him. He was plugged back into Abigail. He could see only through her eyes even as his hands felt the steering wheel slipping under the sweat from his fingers. Somewhere on the horizon of reality, a muffled horn blared as John drove blindly.
Panic froze John’s hands tight on the wheel as he drove blindly ahead, bracing himself for the impact of a crash he couldn’t see coming, his body taut with tension. He managed to steer back left, praying nobody was in the lane he’d just merged from…
He stared into a mirror, saw Abigail bound in a chair in a reddish room draped in haze. His heart quickened at her sight, salt stung his eyes….
The car shook as a loud grinding sound echoed from some faraway reality. His entire body and part of his mind felt as though he would be able to reach out and touch it were he not prisoner to Abigail’s vision. He turned the wheel slightly right, felt the car pull away from the wall it had almost started to climb before straightening out, and tried to remember how far the nearest car in front of him had been. He hoped his foot had kept steady on the accelerator, and that he had not, in his excitement, slammed down on the gas or else he was now rocketing blindly into an accident. He braced for impact from any direction as he eased slightly on the gas pedal in attempt to slow down and then stop the car on a busy highway. More horns, this time louder and closer…
He saw movement in the mirror; someone drifting into his mindsight. The view of the bald man sent something in John’s brain snapping into place.
I know him.
Hungry for more, John tried to chase the misted memory, but it vanished like the vapor of his own perspective through Abigail’s tortured eyes.
Reality returned in an orchestra of sudden discord as a dozen horns blared and his rearview mirror swelled with the sight of a red sports car blazing toward him.
John braced for impact again.
The sports car merged right at the last possible moment, flying by in a blur of angry red, sending a draft of wind which caused John’s car to swerve left. The car nearly ran into the barrier before John corrected course and floored the gas pedal.
He breathed a bottomless sigh, checked to make sure no flashing lights were chasing him, then sped up and merged towards the exit. He found himself praying once again that he got to Abigail in time.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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