Available Darkness: Chapter 19
(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.)
John stared at the dingy hotel room, framed in front of the old van like a perfectly preserved artifact from an abandoned Hollywood set. Though all the rooms were boarded up, John was sure he sensed movement from somewhere toward the back of the hotel.
He wasn’t sure how he knew someone was in the room, either an extrasensory gift included with his curse, or skin on the bones of a hunch. In any event, he was learning to trust his instincts, for they were significantly more aware than the rest of him felt.
“I want you to wait here,” he told Abigail.
They were parked across the street, in front of a run down strip mall whose only remaining tenant still barely in business was a lone stalwart of a dying grocery store chain.
“No way,” Abigail shook her head.
John stared at her for maybe a second, “Listen,” he said, “I don’t know what’s waiting for me in there and I couldn’t live with myself if something bad happened to you because of me.”
“I don’t…” she began.
“You take these keys,” he interrupted, “If I don’t come out or you hear something awful, drive away. Just keep driving until you find a cop or a busy place where you can call for cops. Just tell them everything that happened, no lies. You will be safe.”
She began to protest, but stopped just before his finger hit his lips.
“Do you trust me?” he asked.
She nodded, eyes welling up with tears.
Rather than saying anything, he opened the car door and stepped into the night to meet his destiny.
Baldwin was still having difficulty filtering the information that Bob had just thrown in his lap. Prior to tonight‘s events, prior to seeing the folder with the old photos, Baldwin wouldn’t have bought any of this. He was a man of logic not given to thoughts of supernatural explanations.
Bob explained that the feeders seemed to derive their energy through contact, which left their victims burned to a crisp. A few key government agencies knew of the creatures’ existence, though no official paperwork has ever documented anything beyond the photos Bob was holding onto. Until a few years ago, the parasites, as Bob referred to them, flew mostly under the radar. They were mostly remembered in the talk of urban legends and drunken ramblings, nothing which threatened to expose them to the public at large.
“Look, there’s a lot of shit out there that we can’t explain,” Bob said, “For the most part, we live with it. Let things lie. And that was the case with these feeders. Yes, we knew about them, but they kept to themselves and didn’t leave many messes for us to clean up. But then they either got careless or cocky.”
Once the corpses started piling up in public places, the Omega team began seriously investigating the creatures and destroying any evidence which might get people talking. Which was why Bob was all the more pissed to see footage of one of the creatures all over the news tonight.
“So this guy I’m chasing – he’s a feeder?” Baldwin asked, still uncomfortable using jargon that belonged in a tattered paperback horror novel or low budget flick for teens.
“Yes,” Bob said.
“Who is he?”
Bob took a moment, as if still uncertain how much to tell Baldwin.
“His name is John Sullivan, or at least that’s the name we know him by. He’s a lot older than he appears and has killed scores of people we know of and likely many we don’t.”
“Yes,” Bob said, carrying the bottle of vodka to a chair opposite Baldwin.
“Why is he killing, or feeding from these people? And why my wife? Why send letters, taunting me?”
“He’s not just a feeder,” Bob explained, “he is part of a cell that is looking to bring this arm of the agency down.”
“A cell of feeders? They’re organized? How many of these fuckers are we talking about?”
Bob explained that the agency had no idea how many there were beyond the handful that it tracked and kept tabs on. When asked why the agency didn‘t just kill them, Bob explained that it was more important for the agency to infiltrate the group and locate the head.
“Is Sullivan the head?”
“No, he’s more like the enforcer, doing the dirty work for people higher up the chain than himself.”
Something wasn’t adding up for Baldwin. Why did the vampires have it out for the Feds? Other than the obvious reasons, of course. And why would they target his wife? Something was off and Baldwin’s instincts weren’t going to let him leave until he had amply probed for better answers.
Bob told him to hold on, disappeared for a moment into a side room, then returned holding a small black velvet bag. He handed it to Baldwin.
The bag was light, two items shifting inside it as Baldwin pulled the black drawstring. Inside were two circular stones, a deep shade of crimson. He touched one and a slight spark shot from the rock to his hand causing him to jump in his seat and drop the stone back into the sack.
“What are these?”
“Those are artifacts and the very reason the feeders are coming for us.”
John stood outside the boarded up door of the hotel room. Only when he drew closer could he see that the boards were on a hinge, easily pulled back to reveal a door behind. From the other end, John could hear the faint sound of an old Seinfeld episode. He smiled for a moment with the recognition of a memory from his past. A moment later, a man’s laughter from the room cut John’s smile short.
He glanced back at the car, saw Abigail’s head peeking over the dashboard, watching him intently. He smiled then knocked on the door.
John wondered, not for the first time, if he was making a mistake. What if the person waiting for him was the very person who left him buried alive? John tried to ignore the nagging doubt and continue to trust his instincts.
The TV clicked off and silence waited on the other side of the door. Perhaps the person wasn’t sure if they imagined the knock. John knocked again, this time louder.
“Who is it?” the guy asked. John could hear the caution, and perhaps fear, wavering in the guy’s voice.
From the other end, John heard several thumps, the crash of aluminum cans, some more thumps and then the door opened. A short young man with wild brown hair, thick black framed glasses and a huge beer gut greeted John. He wore blue boxers and a faded black TOOL shirt.
This is my destiny? John thought.
“Well, holy shit,” the man said, his eyes wide joined by a smile even wider, “John!” he said as he opened his arms to embrace him.
John tried to step back but hedged a second too long.
The man squeezed John like an old pillow, but didn’t burst into flames!
John was baffled, but allowed the stranger to continue with the hug that felt like it was falling into forever. There was something deep in the embrace; the sort of affection you save for long lost friends, lovers or family members.
“You sure as hell took long enough,” the guy whistled, “Shit!”
TO BE CONTINUED…
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