One Step (Horror)

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"Police!"

Sam applied the sole of his size 12 and the door slammed open, door jamb shattered. He leapt through the dark opening, Beretta and maglite out before him in crossed wrists. The hallway was empty.

No. A gleam.

He glanced down. A brass badge lay on the tiles, perfectly centered between grout lines. He forced his flashlight to sweep the walls and floor, before kneeling to scoop up the badge.

3906 shone in his hand.

Jenna.

"Bastard," Sam growled.

He pocketed the badge and crept down the hallway.

Hand woven rugs whispered against his shoes, art and souvenirs threw irregular shadows along the wood paneled walls. A non-American road sign slid past, all squiggly lines below a black 35. From the bullet holes he guessed it was from some warzone. After that he spotted a rusty horseshoe and what looked like the remains of a shattered guitar.

At the end of the hall stairs rose to the second floor. He paused at the bottom, and hearing nothing, started up. Photos climbed the wall with the staircase. He sneered as he saw the face that filled TV screens every night smiling beside the President in front of a jet. Walter F-ing Night. It was all he could do not to slam the butt of his pistol through the million dollar smile.

"I'm coming for you, you prick," he whispered as he slid past the photo.

The same face appeared in a dozen more photos, the backgrounds showing countries all over the world. It was a hell of a cover, press credentials and an excuse to visit war torn and violent areas. Places where a couple extra bodies wouldn't be noticed. Where young women could disappear.

Well he'd picked the wrong place this time, smack dab in the middle of Sam's beat. And then Jenna...

A black leather shoulder holster lay tangled on the next stair. The holster was empty. He'd seen his partner put it on many times before. Just another piece left laying to taunt him.

He kept climbing.

A wooden door stood at the top of the stairs. It was open just a crack. No light showed on the other side.

Sam paused to listen then slowly pushed it open. Its squealing hinges pierced the silence. His flashlight picked out a desk, shelves full of books, a high backed chair. A crimson blotch stained the carpet before the desk.

He swallowed, and slipped through the doorway, eyes following the beam of light into the corners. The door creaked shut behind him, he turned.

A pale figure stood in the corner.

Sam stumbled back heart pounding in his ears, snapped his pistol into position, and froze. The pale shape was a huge skull above a coat rack. A boar maybe, something wide and flat with jutting tusks.

He let out a sigh, turned back to the desk.

A game in progress lay spread across a chessboard atop the mahogany surface. It was white's turn, but as he took in the pieces, he saw a pawn was missing.

He squeezed the maglite hard, almost hoping it would shatter in his hand.

One more jab from the sadistic SOB.

A creak from the door. He got his head around and something hard rammed into him.

He slammed into the desk, pain ripping through his crushed ribs. Chess pieces and his flashlight scattered off the far side. Heavy grunting breaths, pale motion, fingers clawed at the back of his jacket.

He tried to orient himself, but a hard blow rang off the side of his head. Lights exploded, he staggered, went to one knee, tasted blood. Footsteps closing echoed in his ears. He threw himself away from the desk as something crashed into it.

Floorboards blasted the air from him, but he scrambled away onto his back. His eyes went wide as he flopped over.

The bone white skull swayed across the room, not a trophy at all but a helmet. A dark figure stood wearing it beside the desk. Bizarre enough, but it was the glowing symbols that pulled his eyelids back. Strange characters across the skull and the figure's hands pulsed with crimson light.

He'd heard twisted rumors about Night being secretly obsessed with the occult and all that bullshit. The kind no good cop took seriously. He didn't know what to think even then, but he knew what to do about it.

The thing charged him. Sam swung his gun up and pulled the trigger.

Occult hell beast or whatever it was, it didn't take well to the 9mm slugs that punched through its body. It staggered back and crashed into the desk before sliding to the floor.

"Damn right," Sam said as he pulled himself to his feet.

With his retrieved flashlight he limped over and stared down at the figure. The symbols had gone out, leaving only a bleeding body behind. One arm was flung wide, fingers limply grasping a pale object.

His breath caught.

Shakily, Sam knelt and pulled the small object free. A pawn shown in his hand, now pink with blood.

He looked to the helmet, dread already building like storm clouds in his gut, then gently pulled it free.

Jenna's lifeless eyes showed more terror than should be possible as they stared at him. The black tape across her lips was stark against her pale skin. He stumbled back and sat down hard.

"No, no, no," he murmured as pain filled his chest.

In the distance sirens were wailing. The razor sharp cry that tore up his throat joined their sound in the night.

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