Chapter 1 Part 1

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There's a special place in Hell for crooked cops, a battered perp told him once. You best enjoy this life, 'cause the one comin' ain't gonna be a picnic.

He never could remember how he had replied. "Save it for the judge," maybe. It was some stupid cliché, anyway. A maggot like him was not worth an original thought.

The Judge you're gonna face won't take your word, the perp replied, before exercising his right to remain silent for the rest of the ride.

The thing was, the perp was right. Sort of. Had he changed Hell to the afterlife, he would have nailed it.

 Had he changed Hell to the afterlife, he would have nailed it

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Ron Guyton had been off-duty, the night he died. One of the perks of being a cop, one he exercised often, was getting free pussy from hookers. Park on a side street, take a little stroll down Spring, and someone would approach him. A little talk, let her set a price, then flash the badge. Her partner—they always traveled in pairs—took off, like always.

"Hands on the wall." He cuffed her, patted her down and thoroughly checked her tits for contraband, then marched her back to the car.

"Come on," the whore whined. "I ain't never been in trouble before. I don't do—"

He opened the back door, leering at her dark thighs. "Get in. You know what? Maybe we can make this go away."

"I don't keep no money on me," she said, climbing into the back seat. "But maybe I know someone who does."

"Nah, don't need the money. Why don't you lay back and kick off those heels, and—"

She shrieked as he slumped and fell into the car with her. A shadow stood where the cop had been. "Jelly!" she rasped. "You just killed a cop!"

"He ain't dead. Yet." Her pimp rifled the cop's pockets, fumbled with a keyring. "Here. Scoot outta there and I'll get those off ya."

"We got all sorts of trouble if we get caught," she moaned.

"Ain't gonna be no trouble," Jelly assured her. "Now turn around." He unlocked the cuffs and snapped them onto the cop's own wrists. "You got your gloves? Put 'em on and help me throw him in the trunk. Then you take my car and follow me. We got stuff to do."

"I don't wanna help kill nobody. Specially not a cop."

"Shee-it. Way I see it, we're doin' the pigs a favor. Gettin' rid of their trash for 'em. Anyway, all you gotta do is drive my car. Don't even have to look. This is my job, anyway. I gotta look after my girls."

All this, Guyton saw floating above himself. There was something with him. Something dark. Unpleasant. He tried to edge away, but talons dug into him. On top of that, he could feel everything, especially his head. It felt worse than the worst hangover ever, where the pimp had cold-cocked him. He clenched his jaw against the pain.

Busted, an oily voice told him. You have the right to remain silent. But you'll scream for me, oh yes. It's only just begun. But don't worry, it will only last... an eternity. That snicker, more than the words, sent a chill through him.

Guyton willed his body to move, to kick at the pimp—anything—but he only managed a twitch as they dragged him into the trunk of his car. He could only watch, writhing in the clutches of whatever it was that had him, as Jelly drove his car away, the hooker following in a glitzy—yes, pimped—Town Car.

They pulled into an empty warehouse near the river. He watched as Jelly lugged a pair of concrete blocks over to the car, then used coat hangers to bind them to his feet. He could feel the wires biting into his ankles, but could not get his body to cooperate. The thing snickered as Guyton struggled in its grip, digging its talons deeper until he stopped. He watched as Jelly dragged him to a loading dock, and pushed him into the river before driving away.

Floating above the river, and sinking beneath it, he felt his lungs burn, felt his body convulse as he breathed in the murky water, heart hammering in the unconscious struggle to live. It took only a couple minutes, and far too long.

Now you're truly mine, the thing whispered, and it dragged him toward the river.

A light enveloped them, and the thing shrieked. No! He is mine!

We exercise our right to divert him, came a reply that thrummed through Guyton. Somehow, this voice was even more frightening than the thing, even as it let him go.

No! Hear me, Ronald Guyton. I will have you in the end. Our triumph will be final at last. But he was dragged away, into a light that burned worse than any fire...

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