|Dark Friday Chapter 1|
|Sunday, 15 November 2009|
“Unbelievable!” screamed Police Chief Bertrand Rix. His car flew around the corner of Sixth and Sycamore, tires screeching through the neighborhood, just as another homicide report came over the radio.
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Another brutal attack. Same M.O. This one even closer.
Un…be…lievable. The word didn’t make it to his lips this time.
A figure burst into his path. Male, dark hair, running through the night super-quick, trying to cut across the street in front of Rix’s car. Rix hammered his foot on the brake.
His tires shrieked again and Rix felt the impact. The car clipped the runner, launching him into the windshield. Rix heard the crackle and saw the glass spiderweb appear, then lost view of the body as it thumped across his roof.
The cruiser skidded to a stop. Had he just hit a suspect? A witness? Rix slammed the gearshift into park and reached for the door.
What the—? In the rearview mirror, Rix saw something round slide off the trunk. He opened the door and saw the runner now lying on the pavement.
Somehow the guy got up and started running again.
Rix was out of the car in a split-second. “Stop!”
The guy, who by all rights should’ve been dead, didn’t stop.
“This is Police Chief Rix! You need medical attention!”
The injured sprinter ran with a limp but was still fast.
Rix glanced at the pavement and saw blood. He looked closer and realized what had fallen off his cruiser.
The guy was getting away, but Rix hesitated. A strange piece of plastic lay on the ground, like a black mirror in the darkness. Rix stared hard.
It was a paintball mask, smack in the middle of Sycamore Street, cracked and splattered with blood. The thing had disproportionately large goggled eyes, two eerie batlike slits for a nose, and no mouth. Along the cheeks were vertical, scarlike slashes. If The Fly and Darth Vader had spawned offspring, it might look like…like what he was seeing now.
Rix’s mind was pounding. All the gruesome reports flying over the radio tonight—three, four, maybe more, only minutes apart, someone in a mask attacking people—this was no small-town prank.
He ripped his gun from its holster and ran in pursuit.
“You’re under arrest!” he shouted at the fleeing runner, not really expecting a response.
In twenty years on the job, he’d never once needed to say that phrase with his gun drawn. Then again, he’d never chased a homicide suspect before.
Rix saw the guy heading toward the town graveyard and felt ill inside.
Four blocks away Hope Redmond ran and cried, her letter jacket torn, her blond hair damp.
Oh, God help me. Somebody. Anybody.
She came around a bush and turned up the block. Houses. Dark. She touched her shoulder, then the side of her face. Blood.
Her stomach felt queasy, her heart pounding.
Is he still coming?
She saw a light and ran toward the house.
The front porch was only steps away. She’d break in if she had to.
Hope was almost there when someone grabbed her arm. She screamed. She couldn’t rip free.
“Let go! Get away from me!” She lunged toward the door. “Help!”
“Hope?” It was a voice she recognized. “How the…what happened?”
She turned and the grip loosened.
“Hope, it’s me, Casey.” He let go and put his hands up. “Calm down! What’s going on?”
Casey…Casey Wood. Yes, she knew who he was, but—
“Why did you grab me?” she said. “Wh-what are you doing out here?”
“Hope, it’s okay. Let me help you.” He tried to touch her again.
She took a step away, toward the house, still staring.
No knife. No mask. No blood.
Could it still be him?
Rix stepped into the weeds at the edge of the cemetery and spoke into his radio, “I’m in pursuit. Lebanon Cemetery!”
He scanned the tombstones, the crosses and hearts standing ominously pale in the moonlight. Half a football field ahead, he saw the figure running diagonally across the graveyard.
He crouched and headed in, trying to be quick, yet cautious. The suspect fled to the east, and Rix thought about taking a shot. He raised his gun, but the figure darted behind a headstone.
Rix ran, gun still raised, though he knew it was unwise to risk a shot. Not yet anyway. Not with the bloodbath his town had already seen tonight. Lots of ricochet potential in a dark graveyard.
He gained on the suspect, who now jogged like he was either tiring or scheming. The suspect slipped past some trees and Rix lost him entirely. He hurried ahead, easing up to the trees, just a few yards from where the suspect had disappeared. He paused to listen. Nothing.
Trees swayed in the wind. A car traveled off in the distance. No crunching of leaves. No breathing. No footsteps. Nothing but night.
Rix surveyed the graveyard. The silence was starting to bother him. Where was his backup?
As chief of a seven-man force, Rix knew there were certain limitations. He just never counted on a solo chase through a backdrop of human decay, in pursuit of someone suspected of horrific murders all over town.
To his far right—almost behind him—Rix thought he saw something move. He spun around. Movement a few rows down. Rix crept ahead. The pursuit had led him almost the entire distance across Lebanon Cemetery.
He heard a loud crash ahead of him.
What was—? Rix burst toward the sound, gun pointed with precision. His heart raced so fast it felt like he’d slammed an entire pot of coffee back at the station. He cleared a row of tombstones and stopped dead in his tracks.
Rix found himself in front of the lone full-scale mausoleum in the entire cemetery: Tyre’s Tomb. The entrance door had been forced open.
He scanned the graveyard, then gazed slowly back toward the open door.
Rix couldn’t remember exactly who was buried in Tyre’s Tomb, but the story went that years ago, Family Tyre had insisted on something special for a loved one. Were they Catholic? He couldn’t recall. Obviously they’d had the means.
He shined his flashlight inside but saw no one.
The open door dared him to make a move. Rix took a step closer.
He held his gun and flashlight, hands crisscrossed, both pointed at the dark entrance. Rix was tired of running. He knew he needed to end this right now.
Rix evaluated the area for ambush potential. A dirt road separated the border of the cemetery from a cornfield. Rix hoped the guy hadn’t been far enough ahead to make it into the field, that the open mausoleum door wasn’t a ruse. The corn was tall and could’ve hidden anyone well. But there was no movement, and in the moonlight, Rix couldn’t make out any footprints in the dirt.
He focused back on the open tomb. He sensed that if he went in, he had a much greater chance of assuming permanent cemetery temperature. But it was either that or be a coward, and cowards and police chiefs weren’t one and the same in his book.
A bead of sweat trickled down his forehead and stopped at his eyebrow. He moved forward, just inside the doorway. Rix heard a noise, and panned the area with the flashlight, which revealed nothing. He took one more step in, then hesitated.
He heard a sudden rush behind him and a huge force slammed into his back. Both the flashlight and gun went flying.
Rix felt a sharp pain, then another. He fell toward the tomb’s floor. He knew he was being stabbed.
Rix roared in agony.
His assailant screamed back with rage.
“Where did you come from?” Hope stammered.
“I was over at Ashley’s.” Casey pointed down the street, the opposite direction from where she’d fled. “You know Ashley…we’re all in the same history class.”
Hope looked toward the houses, still wary. Someone was trying to kill her; Casey had been out walking around.
“Were you in an accident? A fight?” He held out his hand.
Hope fought back tears. “Someone…just…tried…to stab me.”
After she spoke the words, Casey did something that bothered her.
He didn’t say anything.
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Copyright © 2007, Jeffrey Leever
|Last Updated ( Thursday, 07 October 2010 )|