NOTHING CAPTURED HIS ATTENTION. IT wasn’t as if
he wasn’t looking for anything specific or that he didn’t care about anything,
but everything became like white noise. Looking down, he spotted a couple
squashed beer cans, which had resulted from the constant compression of car
tires repeatedly running over them. Now they lay in the gutter unnoticed—as
discarded litter. Out of boredom, he kicked the aluminum pancakes with his worn
out running shoes. The compressed disks clattered a ways before landing back in
a different part of the same gutter, just as his life.
Roger Case was in one of those moods where everything seemed
futile. It was a time when his temperament plummeted; he entertained the spirit
of defeat, which was becoming more common these days. His concentration slipped
farther into the dwindling mindset of drugs and crime to the point of mania.
Rationalizing his motives, he preferred to enact self-medication.
He needed something strong to take away his thoughts of
negativity. The repetitive movements of his hands and arms worsened. He wanted
anything that would take away his fears, his depression, and his unrelenting
obsession for the next quick fix. Roger knew that even when he felt the most
empowering high that there was a high price to pay—and it was predictable and
inevitable—the hard, downward crash.
Roger hadn’t always been teetering on that slippery slope,
dangling over the life of crime; in fact, he still remembered when things were
normal and even mundane. He grew up in a typical middle class family with his
mom and dad, along with his older brother and sister. Reflecting on those
memories now, he would trade just about anything to have those times back.
Now he waited with anticipation for his contact. It was going
to make everything better—at least for a while. He convinced himself that just
a little bit of crystal meth would help him get back on track—to see things
clearly again. It wasn’t as if he was a full-blown addict, he just needed
something to help motivate and push him in the right direction.
He heard a hollow scraping noise and stopped to listen.
Standing quietly, still straining to hear, but that sound never repeated. He
looked around. Curious. The sound seemed to resonate in his head instead of
around the street. Upon further inspection, he realized it came from inside the
The old water treatment plant had been decommissioned by the
county some time ago, now outdated, and was nothing more than an eyesore
gathering the grime and deteriorating aspects of time gone by. Something loomed
in Roger’s vision and waited in darkness—he strained his eyes looking into the
long structure that seemed to lead to nowhere.
Maybe his connection made a change of plans and the meeting
place was at the cement sinew, and out of sight from any onlookers, or cops
happening by on their route. It was possible. At this point in Roger’s life,
anything was possible.
Roger contemplated his options for a moment and then decided
to check it out. He turned toward the water treatment plant and headed inside.
The first thing he noticed was the temperature difference—cold and damp
compared to the warmer street areas.
He slowed his pace, unsure if he should call out or announce
his presence. Fidgeting nonstop with his hands, pressing his fingers tighter
and then releasing them, Roger moved farther into the tunnel.
A shuffling sound came from the other end.
“Hello?” he finally said, his voice weak and tinny which made
him unconsciously twitch.
A muffled dragging sound was the responded answer. It
resonated from the back-left area.
“Hey, I don’t have time for this… you either want the money
or not.” He tried to sound tough but his nerves were frayed. It wasn’t
something he was used to feeling. In fact, Roger couldn’t remember the last
time he felt scared, frustrated, angry or anxious.
The damp cement tunnel seemed to pull him closer to the heart
of it—into the bowels of no return. Instead of turning around and leaving,
Roger slowly moved deeper into the cavern. It was as if someone or something
else had control over his body. His insatiable curiosity had put him in
troubling situations throughout his life. It contributed to him getting into
deep trouble with a growing rap sheet to prove it.
Most memories had a calming effect on Roger, which had
initiated his fidgeting to cease and his hesitation to subside. He didn’t
understand many people’s fears and phobias, most things were just benign and
didn’t amount to anything remotely scary or debilitating.
There it was again—a dragging sound followed by what he
thought were hushed whispers.
He would smack a kid if they jumped out at him or gave him
any crap. Most likely, they were tagging gang symbols and looking to get into
There was the distinct sound of two people whispering to each
Roger tried to sharpen his vision but the darkness played
tricks on him with weird shadow figure apparitions. He blinked his eyes quickly
trying to concentrate on the area and where the kids were hiding; his eyes
began to water from the extreme effort. Wiping away the aggravated tears, Roger
felt his surroundings close in tightly around him as his perception changed.
The darkness seemed to give a strange rippled effect.
The voices became louder. There was nothing sinister about
the voices, but they were speaking faster with more of an urgent tone.
“Hey, you little maggots, I know you’re here,” stated Roger.
He stopped and stood still.
The darkness still loomed around him, but there was a quietness
that overcame him.
A brief hundredth of a second, a peculiar whizzing noise
filled Roger’s ears and then a brutal blow struck his head and knocked him off
his feet. With a ringing in his head and a groggy consciousness, he tried to
sit up but more savage blows pummeled his body. It sounded as if a tree
splintered just before it fell in the forest. His breath caught in his lungs.
Everything went dark.
The anonymous whispers stopped.
All buzzing in his ears stopped.
Roger Case’s heart stopped too.
Jennifer Chase is a multi award-winning and best-selling crime
fiction author, as well as a consulting criminologist. Jennifer holds a
bachelor degree in police forensics and a master’s degree in criminology
& criminal justice. These academic pursuits developed out of her
curiosity about the criminal mind as well as from her own experience
with a violent sociopath, providing Jennifer with deep personal
investment in every story she tells. In addition, she holds
certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling. She is an
affiliate member of the International Association of Forensic
Criminologists, and member of the International Thriller Writers.
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