Excerpt for Dead by Dawn: A Short Story of Terror and Bloodshed by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Dead by Dawn—A Short Story of Terror and Bloodshed

Copyright Raven Reece 2018

Other titles by Raven Reece:

The Haunted House Clown and other true horror stories.

Penelope and other true horror stories.

Sinners: Se7en Sins. Se7en Stories.



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A man's choice in life should be his own. The decisions he makes and the mistakes he learns from all mould a man into who he is. If he chooses a darker path in life, one lined with trees of hate and rage, then he takes responsibility for where that path leads him. If he chooses to indulge in the urge to hurt people around him for any real or imagined offences they've caused, then he shall continue with their blood on his hands. Though his conscience may arrive after the blood of others has been spilled, he knows this was his action and his choice alone with no-one beside himself to blame. When his dreams are haunted by screams of fear and tinged red with the blood of his victims, he'll know it's something he deserves to live with.

Indeed, an evil man would enjoy these dreams.

Lee Riley is not an evil man, and he didn't choose to partake in the Massacre at Horn Village; his choice was taken away by a madman with a gun.

Lee believed witnessing the carnage and horror of that day would far outweigh any further trauma that may affect his young life.

He was wrong.

Wednesday, 26th November.

2.07PM.

Lee came awake and groaned, the persistent knocking on his front door nudging sleep further and further away with each bang and thud. He raised his head groggily and squinted at his bedside clock. The time beamed at him, bright in the darkened room. He groaned and buried his head in his pillow when he realised he'd only been asleep for an hour and a half.

After a 13-hour night shift, a mere 90 minutes of sleep just wasn't going to cut it.

He turned on his side and groaned at the comfortable lazy feeling that came over him. It was bitterly cold, and he planned on staying in bed all day. He wasn't working tonight so that meant a chilled night in with a takeaway, computer games, and horror movies. His plans did not include answering the door any time soon. Whoever seemed so keen to speak to him would just have to come back later. He grabbed his duvet and snuggled into the pillows, sighing with added relief when the knocking ceased. About three seconds of blissful silence followed, just enough time for Lee to think the person had gone away, when the sudden loud bang made him gasp. Sitting up in bed, he glanced towards his bedroom door.

Whoever had been knocking on his door had not gone away. No longer simply knocking, it sounded like his front door was being punched and kicked.

Lee groaned in anger. This had better be important. He clutched the duvet and wrapped it around himself, glancing down at his wrinkled work uniform before he did. Exhausted after his night shift, he'd gone straight to bed without getting undressed. The loud knocking continued, and Lee became alarmed.

Had there been an accident?

He rushed along the hallway to his front door, squinting at the frosted glass. No use. All he could make out was a large dark figure.

Concerned and afraid, he hesitated by the front door, wondering if the person standing on the other side had seen him. Time seemed to stand still for a moment and he held his breath. If he hadn't been seen, perhaps he could look through the peep-hole and decide then whether to open his door or not.

Lee leaned forward and closed one eye, ready to peer through the peep-hole ―when he staggered backwards, crying out in surprise. The person on the other side kicked the door again and knocked at the same time.

"Open the door, Lee."

Lee froze. He knew that voice. He wasn't being asked to open his door, he was being told. He reached forward, turned the bolt and tugged at the security chain. Swallowing profusely, he pulled his front door open―then gaped in stunned horror.

The first thing he saw was the rifle.

Ed Bateman walked into Lee's house and smiled, his eyes wide and his hair tousled. "Today's the day, Lee. It's arrived."

Today's the day.

The words slammed through Lee, stinging him like a sudden sharp slap around his face.

Dear Jesus. He doesn't mean...

Then Lee saw the blood.

The green T-shirt Ed wore was speckled with a fine mist of blood. Here and there, larger spots were splattered along with smears on his hands and arms. The green camouflage trousers Ed wore also had bloodstains on them.

"You've...You've shot someone?" Lee asked, his mind tripping over itself.

Of course he's shot someone. Look at all the blood.

"Two people are lying on their kitchen floor with enough holes in them to grate cheese." Ed laughed, then frowned. "I thought it might be satisfying, you know, it being my first time and all. But it's just made me want to kill more."

Maybe he's shot an animal and he's trying to freak me out.

The look in Ed's eyes assured Lee that what he was saying was the awful truth: he'd shot and killed two people.

"Maybe I've been daydreaming about it for so long that it's killed some of the buzz?" Ed shrugged thoughtfully. "Anyway, you'd better get your shoes on. Someone must have seen me banging on your door with my rifle. We need to get going before the police swarm the place."

"Going? Going where?"

Ed's eyes darkened, and Lee shrank back. "To teach this town a lesson, Lee. To teach them all a lesson they won't ever forget."

Lee hunched over and the vomit burst from his throat. He coughed and gagged, hot tears streaming from his eyes as his throat burned. All the times Ed had spoken of this, all the times Lee had dismissed Ed's words as mere ramblings. Now, two people lay dead and Ed spoke of killing more, with Lee by his side. How was he going to get out of this? Would Ed kill him when he was done?

"We don't have time for this, Lee," Ed said coldly. "You knew this day was coming. Today, they will all regret their silence. I thought you'd be as happy to see the town punished as I am, they betrayed you too."

"This isn't right," Lee gasped. "You can't do this. All these people―"

"I've been thinking: all these people need to learn their lesson and killing them isn't really going to achieve that. I can't stand the thought of them dying feeling like a victim. I'm not going to shoot to kill, Lee. I'll shoot to wound. That way, they can live the rest of their lives in fear. Imagine, they won't be able to leave their houses without being reminded of the day that they were shot. Their dreams will be haunted by the memories every single night. Then, when they learn the reason why they were shot, when they learn they could have prevented their own pain with honesty, perhaps it'll teach them to lead better lives. In the long run, it will benefit them. The ones who survive, at least."

"You're crazy. This isn't right―"

Lee's words were cut off by the rifle's muzzle, a mere two inches from his face. "You're either with me, Lee, or you're against me. What's it gonna be?"

Kill or be killed.

Lee hated the words as they resounded in his mind. It was his life or the life of others. If he refused to accompany Ed, his body would be found lying here in his hallway. His name would be on the list of victims of the massacre to come. If he did accompany Ed, his life would be forever tormented by the memories of today.

He hated himself, but he wanted to live. Maybe he could prevent some deaths if he went along.

Sure. If that'll help you sleep at night.

"What's it gonna be, Lee?" Ed's eyes bore into his and Lee shuddered. He felt like Ed could see his soul.

"I'm with you," Lee said breathlessly. Then said a short prayer in his mind, begging for forgiveness.

Ed grinned humourlessly. "Why don't I feel like you're totally into this? Why do I feel like fear is causing you to say what I want to hear, instead of a true desire to see this town punished?"

"I agree with you, Ed. I just think things need thinking through properly. You could end up in prison for the rest of your life. Is that what you want?"

"I'll be a legend. People will shudder at the sound of my name. People will tell stories about me, about my past and their encounters with me. Everyone I've ever crossed paths with will grab their 15 minutes of fame as they clutch their hanky and weep in front of the cameras that'll flock here as soon as the story breaks. For years people will remember where they were at that moment, the moment the gunman walked their streets, firing indiscriminately at everyone he saw. I can live the rest of my life in prison happy knowing that they can lock me up, but they can't ever get away from me. The people of this town will remain terrorised by me long after today. I'll stalk them the rest of their life in their dreams."

A dizzying haze coloured Lee's eyes and he swayed on the spot. This was becoming more and more real with every passing second. The cold feeling that'd swamped him earlier did so again, this time making him feel as if his entire body had gone completely numb. He desperately wished that he were dreaming this, sweating and crying as he tossed and turned in a disturbed sleep. He'd wake to find himself panting and shaking, then he'd breathe a huge sigh of relief when he realised it was all just a bad dream. Then, his life would continue, and he'd forget about this terrible nightmare.

"Lee!"

Ed's enraged shout startled Lee from his thoughts and he cried out. "Snap out of it! Last chance." Ed's grip on the rifle tightened. "Are you with me, or against me?"

"I'm with you. I'm coming."

Please God. Please anyone. Please forgive me. There's nothing that I can do to stop this.

Ed grinned and lowered the rifle. "Then let's go make history. Some people in this town will be dead by dawn."

*

Lee followed Ed outside and shivered. He felt as if he were floating. The bitterly cold wind nipped his bare arms and stung his skin through his creased T-shirt and work trousers, yet he hardly noticed. Glancing around, he hoped to see someone, anyone, standing and watching. Someone who had seen Ed as he pounded on Lee's door, splattered with blood and carrying a rifle. Someone who was keeping an eye on the situation as they held their phone to their ear, the 999 operator on the other end as they dispatched police to the scene. If they scrambled quickly enough, they may be able to prevent further deaths.

No-one paid any attention to Lee and Ed as they walked down Lee's garden path. He glanced sideways at Ed. The man's face was drawn, his eyes like that of a shark: dark, black and empty. He walked with determination, his hands clutching the rifle tightly. Lee's hope that whatever rage had gripped Ed so fiercely would cease and begin to fade.

This man was out to shoot people today. And there was nothing that anyone could do to stop it.

Lee thought of Ed's words: shoot to wound.

Perhaps that wouldn't be so bad? Perhaps that may be easier to live with? Ed would go down in history, as he wanted, but people wouldn't have to die to make this happen. If Ed simply went around shooting people, all of whom lived, that would make the memories of today bearable. But Ed's words replayed in Lee's mind repeatedly: dead by dawn. Whether Lee was prepared or not, chances are he was about to witness a massacre.

Ed found his first victim right next door.

Mrs. Berry was on her knees, weeding her front garden. She wore overalls and large garden gloves, probably her husband's. Intent on yanking what looked to be a stubborn weed from the ground, she didn't notice the two men as they walked closer.

Lee felt the bile rise in his throat. He felt the shudders as they ran through him fiercely. He felt the scream building in his chest. He didn't care for Mrs. Berry; not many people did. She was a nosy busy-body, the town gossip. Anything that happened, any juicy gossip that happened to be going around, you could bet Mrs. Berry knew all about it. If she spotted kids off school, she would report them. If someone played their music too loud, she would report them. If she happened to notice a wife letting a man into her home when her husband was at work, she would contact the husband and let him know. No. There weren't many people around who cared for Mrs. Berry.

That did not mean that Lee wanted her shot.

Ed raised his rifle and pointed it at Mrs. Berry. Obviously focused on the task at hand, she still hadn't noticed the two men who stood watching her.

"Oh Mrs. Berry," Ed called.

Mrs. Berry lifted her head and glared at Ed, annoyed by the interference. Time slowed down, and Lee watched the range of emotions flicker across Mrs. Berry's face. Annoyance turned to surprise, then wonder. She seemed to understand that a man stood pointing a rifle at her, but apparently, she didn't grasp the severity of the situation. The look of wonder turned back into annoyance.

"What do you think you're doing, young man?" She scolded. "Walking around dressed like Rambo and carrying a gun. What on earth do you think you're playing at?"

Lee reeled at the scolding tone of her voice and the look of contempt on her face. Did this woman really believe nothing bad would ever happen to her? Even now, face to face with a gun, she still refused to back down and be quiet. Ed's body stiffened as Mrs. Berry frowned.

"Shoot to wound, Ed. Remember? Shoot to wound."

Lee whispered the words, his eyes never leaving Mrs. Berry. Though he tried to sound like he was reminding Ed, he was in fact pleading.

He had an awful feeling Ed had forgotten his plan to shoot to wound, not kill.

"She doesn't deserve to live. Dead by dawn."

Then Ed fired the gun.

Mrs. Berry's eye imploded. Lee cried out, covering his ears as he gaped at the horrific sight.

A look of absolute shock twisted Mrs. Berry's gory features. Her right eye was a pulpy red mess. Her mouth opened and closed like a fish yanked from the water. She stared straight ahead, not at Ed or Lee, but at something beyond them. It can only have been a few seconds, but Lee felt he'd been standing at his spot for hours, watching this woman die. Mrs. Berry's remaining eye glazed over, and she toppled backwards. Lee gasped as she started to convulse and shudder, her legs kicking sideways as her arms flopped by her side.

"What a blast," Ed muttered. "Fuckin' awesome."

Then he and Lee both gasped as the Berrys' front door opened and her husband stepped out.

A small, wiry, rake-thin man, he was the opposite of his wife. Very quiet and non-threatening, there were people who admitted feeling sorry for this man and his choice of wife. Mr. Berry gaped at the two men before glancing over at his wife's body. A combination of shock and heartbreak contorted his features. He looked once more at Ed, then at the gun that was now pointed at him. His posture relaxed, and his shoulders slumped. It appeared the man was ready to take the bullet. The sound of the gun blasted, and Lee jumped, crying out again. His cries were drowned out by Mr. Berry, who suddenly screamed and clutched his right leg before tumbling backwards into his house.

“Shoot to wound. Right?” Ed glanced at Lee and grinned.



*



The next few minutes went by in a blur, yet time seemed to drag on into an endless void of fear and horror. In that time, Ed shot a further 12 people. Though he wasn't consciously counting, the numbers added up in Lee's mind without his concentrating on the matter.

The man who came out of his house wearing a football top and tracksuit trousers ― shot.

The woman who was getting out of her car in her own driveway ― shot

The elderly gentleman with his back to the road as he washed his front windows ― shot.

Ed aimed mostly for the legs of his victims and hadn't outright killed anyone since Mrs. Berry. Lee was thankful that there were no children around. It must have been term-time as he knew quite a few young families lived on this street.

Ed had shot at people driving by in cars, at people he spotted in their own homes through the windows. Perhaps the worst of all was the young couple who were getting into a car parked in front of a house. The young man, no older than twenty, had spotted Ed walking towards him. Without hesitating to ponder the situation, the man had thrown his arm around the young woman beside him and shielded her body with his own as they ran back towards the house. Ed became still as he tracked the moving targets with his rifle. He waited until the young couple were close to their front door before shooting.

The young man had cried out as the side of his thigh exploded with blood. He fell to the ground and the woman crouched beside him, screaming and tugging on his arm. Lee heard the man telling her to run as he pushed at her face. She didn't listen to him and continued to tug on his arm. Ed held the rifle steady as he watched the girl. Lee held his breath and wished with all his might that Ed would leave the girl be. He almost sobbed with relief when Ed lowered his rifle and grinned at him. “Just listen to the bitch, going on like a madwoman. I don't need to shoot her now, I think just seeing him shot has done her in.”

Other people were shot after that, but Lee's mind had shut down. Though still aware of what was happening around him, he felt as though he was observing the horror from afar, some place that was safe and far away. He'd once had a bad bought of insomnia and had remained awake for almost 50 hours straight. In that time, he'd experienced times of memory lapses, what he called 'spacey moments'. This was a similar feeling, though this time it wasn't exhaustion that forced his mind to shut-down; it was mind-numbing fear.

After several people had been shot, Lee found himself wondering what the sound of a bullet hitting a person reminded him of. On some level, he understood the macabre nature of his musings, but he couldn't stop the pondering. It was a sound he'd heard before. Well, perhaps not heard as such, but a sound that was vaguely familiar and tugged at his memories. Was he losing his mind? Lee thought so. He still couldn't get the sound out of his mind.

Then, he realised what it was.

The sound of a bullet pounding into flesh was like the sound of pounding a chicken breast flat before you grilled it. The dull, yet squishy thud. Of course, the chicken breast didn't scream in fear and agony as people who'd been shot did.

Lee walked behind Ed, as obedient as a Labrador following his master into the woods to search for game. He wanted to scream, to run away, to call out warnings to the people around him. But he couldn't make a sound. He couldn't run away. He couldn't even concentrate on anything other than the rifle in Ed's hands.

He could smell the smoke that came from the rifle's barrel. He could smell his own sweat mixed with his deodorant. He could smell freshly mowed grass. Behind him, people yelled and screamed. A man was shouting profanities as a dog barked maniacally.

Ed ignored all sounds from behind and continued walking forward. Suddenly, he stopped, and Lee sucked in a breath. A red car approached slowly, as if the person driving was lost and pondering their surroundings. Ed raised his rifle and the car braked to a sudden stop. Lee saw two female faces; their mouths open in stunned surprise. The woman in the passenger seat grabbed the sides of her face and appeared to be screaming. The woman driving simply stared at Ed, apparently in shock. The rifle bucked in Ed's hands as he fired and the side mirror on the driver's side flew off the car. The driver shifted the gears and threw the car into reverse, the tires squealing loudly. Ed fired three more times then lowered his rifle.

That's when Lee heard the sirens.

Over. It was over.

He felt like slumping to the ground in relief and wondered if he was going to faint. He knew only minutes had passed since Ed began his shooting spree, but 14 people had been shot and one killed. It felt like this situation had been going on for at least an hour.

Lee and Ed watched the red car backing up, heading for the main road. As it swerved, its tires squealing, a police car arrived and screeched to a halt. Lee cheered in his mind as Ed cursed loudly. Lee's elation quickly died as the police officer got out of his vehicle and ran towards the red car. Hadn't someone told him that a madman was running around with a gun?

Ed raised his rifle and began to shoot.



*



It happened again. The spacey feeling took over Lee and he retreated into a world where he could watch all this happening without being in the centre of it. The policeman's face was almost comical when he realised bullets were flying in his direction. Either he was new to the force, or his survival instincts were numbed by shock. The first bullet pounded into the red car, mere feet from him, and he simply stopped and stared at the hole the bullet created in the metal.

Run! Lee thought. Just run, you idiot.

Yet, the officer remained standing where he was. He made an easy target. The side of his head exploded as a bullet pounded into his left temple and he fell to the ground.

A policeman. Ed just shot a policeman.

Though the situation had been serious before, now it was dire. Ed had killed a police officer with Lee standing by his side. Would he be classed as an accomplice to this crime? Would the police believe his innocence as one of their own lay dead in the street? Lee knew the police would treat this situation as deathly serious, but now that one of their own lay dead in the street, they would now take this personally.

Commotion ensued on the street ahead. Cars screeched as brakes were stomped on; women screamed, and men shouted; a dog squealed; a car alarm wailed. The hysterical screech of a young woman reached a pitch as a brave, or stupid, young man rushed to the fallen police officer and tried to drag him behind the red car. Lee cringed, bracing himself for the gunshots he felt sure would rain down on the would-be hero. Ed simply watched, a confused frown on his face. “What does this dude think he can do,” Ed asked, sounding amused, “stuff the brains back into the pig's head?”

Nausea assaulted Lee once again, and he fought the urge to pass out. More sirens wailed as they approached, and Lee prayed that Ed would throw down his rifle and surrender.

But Ed was not finished.

He shouldered his rifle and began walking towards a house on the left. Lee considered trying to run, but he knew Ed would shoot him in the back the second he tried. He'd seen first-hand what Ed was capable of, and, despite the trauma he knew would remain with him for the rest of his life, Lee still wanted to live.

Ed glanced behind him, watching Lee. He tightened his grip around the rifle and raised his eyebrows. “Wanna try it, Lee? I'll even give you a five second head start.”

Feeling as though another part of his soul had just died, Lee lowered his head and followed. Ed reached the red front door and tugged on the handle.

Unlocked.

With one last glance at the road and the panicked crowd that had gathered, Ed entered the house. Lee followed, picturing the armed police who would soon swarm the area. This is the place where a stand-off between cops and psycho would take place―and Lee was caught in the middle. He was still hopeful, however, that he'd survive this, and his hope was the only thing keeping him from laying on the ground and curling up in the foetal position.

His hope died upon following Ed inside the house. Lee froze, horrified and more frightened than ever. Toys littered the hallway that led to the left and a stair-gate blocked access to the stairs on the right.

A child lives here.

Ed kicked a stuffed animal and hesitated. He cocked his head to one side and appeared to be listening. Apart from the noise outside, Lee heard nothing from within the house. He wished with every fibre in his body that the house was empty. He looked down at the toys, dread stirring within his stomach. Numerous toy trucks were scattered on the floor, along with large Lego blocks and a couple of action figures. These were the toys of a small child, not an older one that would be in school. Lee had never wished for something more than he did at that moment.

Please let this house be empty. Please, don't let this child be here.

Ed’s body language told of a man still on the hunt, a man whose taste for blood had not yet been satiated. He was alert for any sounds within the house, sounds that told him of more victims awaiting a bullet.

The surge of emotion that swamped Lee when he heard weeping, both from a child and woman, was so powerful he almost fell to his knees. Ed stiffened, facing forward.

“Ed. No.”

Ignoring Lee's plea, Ed walked down the hallway, his head cocking this way and that, before he abruptly stopped. Hurrying after him, Lee stopped too. It was clear the sounds were coming from the under-stairs cupboard. The muffled sound of a child crying increased along with a horrified gasp from a woman. Ed stared at the closed door, his smile that of a predator that had found its prey. Lee's outcry mingled with the terrified scream of the woman as Ed yanked the cupboard door wide open and pointed his rifle inside.

“God, no,” Lee moaned. The woman had squeezed herself in among hanging coats, cleaning utensils and tools. She huddled in fear and stared up at Ed, tears streaking down her cheeks as her grip on the small boy in her arms tightened. Ed smiled and stepped forward, pointing the muzzle of the gun within inches of the woman's face. Lee cried openly as the woman pressed the child's face into her neck, trying to prevent him from seeing the gun pointed so close to his tiny face. “Please,” she whimpered. “Please don't hurt my baby.” The child's whimpers intensified as tremors shook the woman's body. She lowered her head and began to sob.

Up to that moment, surviving had been Lee's biggest concern. He hadn't known throughout the whole ordeal whether Ed planned to kill him along with everyone else or not. Now, his biggest concern was this young mother and her child. The horrors he'd witnessed today would remain with him for the rest of his days―witnessing the slaying of a mother and her baby would haunt him into the next life. He stepped up close to Ed, who took his eyes off the cowering, sobbing woman and looked Lee right in the eye.

“You won't hurt them, Ed,” Lee said through clenched teeth. “You'll have to kill me first.”

And for a split second, Lee thought Ed would do just that. A dark cloud descended over Ed's eyes, giving the impression of huge pupils and a gaping void where his soul should reside. Sweat ran down Lee's back as the whole world seemed to stand still for endless seconds.

“Get out,” Ed told the woman as he backed away slowly. Keeping the weapon on her, he didn't stop moving until his back touched the wall.

Lee couldn't believe it. The woman raised her head and looked at Ed with terror and distrust in her tear-filled eyes.

“I said get out!” Ed yelled.

“My baby.”

“Take it with you. Go. Now!”

The woman resembled a new-born foal as she struggled to her feet and stepped out of the cupboard. The child wailed and tightened his grip on his mother and in turn, she held him tighter. Turning so her back faced Ed and ensured a bullet would hit her and not her son, she sidestepped until she was far enough away from Ed and his rifle before she took off running down the hallway. Lee held his breath as he watched her, the child's face bouncing around with the sudden, jerky movements of his mother. Meanwhile, Ed had lifted the rifle from his shoulders and was clutching it in his hands once again. Ed's rifle was still trained on her, his finger poised over the trigger.

When she reached her front door, Ed stiffened, his jaw clenching. Lee's mind ran a mental film of the people he'd seen shot down this afternoon. He didn't know if his memories would ever fade, if his traumatised mind would allow him the luxury of blocking out the terrible memories. He knew one thing for sure: never would he be able to forget the shooting of a young mother as she clutched her child tightly in her arms. He felt paralysed with fear as the woman pulled her front door open and rushed out, a high-pitched squeal of fear leaving her and mingling with the sobs of her son. The street beyond the door was a scene of chaos and panic: police cars pulled up, their tyres squealing on the pavement; a small crowd of panicked people hurried back and forth, their expressions of horror now aimed at the young woman fleeing from the house with a small child in her arms.

"Go and close the door," Ed ordered, gesturing with his rifle.

Again, Lee considered running. Two policemen had rushed to the young woman, their faces twisted with shock and concern. One policeman wrapped his arm around the young woman's shoulders and hurried away while the other turned and made eye contact with Lee.

All thoughts Lee had of running disappeared.

The cop was furious, enraged. It seemed as if the man's professionalism and training were leaving the area with the woman and her son — he looked as though he were considering taking Lee apart with his bare hands.

Lee slammed the front door shut and rested his head against it, a feeling of complete despair crashing over him. They thought he was involved, that he was partly responsible for the dead and wounded that littered the street. He felt like there was no way out for him.

He was doomed.

"Let's go and sit down," Ed said from behind him. "Let's see how much longer we can drag this out for."

Lee remained where he was, his eyes squeezed shut to prevent the hot tears from falling.

"Now!"

Ed's shout startled Lee and he turned around. Upon seeing the rifle pointed at him, accompanied by a cruel, humourless smirk from Ed, Lee became angry. All the feeling of terror and hopelessness, despair and horror, snowballed together, turning into an entangled mass of rage.

Whether he survived or not, his life was ruined. He may be able to prove his innocence today, but that wouldn't help to remove the memories. The horror he'd witnessed today would haunt him till the day he died and the knowledge of this overwhelmed his desire to live.

"They'll smoke us out," Lee said, clenching his fists. "Rubber bullets, gas bombs, tear gas— whatever they have to do to get you."

"And risk your life?" Ed shrugged. "As far as they know, you're my hostage."

"Or, I'm your partner. This is over, Ed. I'm leaving."

Ed lowered his rifle and smiled. The smile was mean, cruel. It sent chills down Lee's spine.

"You could be right about them thinking you're in on this. It all depends on whether they've found the first victims."

Lee frowned as Ed's smile grew wider.

"45 Maple Street," Ed said, and Lee's vision swam. He remembered opening the door to Ed at the start of this nightmare. The blood splatter on his clothes. This meant...

"You shouldn't feel too torn up over it," Ed said. "After all, they weren't your real parents. They signed a few forms and took you home. Of course, you only found out yesterday. Rough couple of days for you, eh?"

The tears Lee had fought to keep inside now flowed like a burst dam. His parents were dead? Sure, he'd been angry with them for keeping his adoption from him his whole life. Yesterday, he'd stormed from their house, hurt and furious. He went straight to work for his night shift and hadn't called them to talk things over. The last time he'd seen them, his mother was hunched over, sobbing into her hands as his father consoled her, looking just as upset as she was. Lee's last words to his parents were 'you liars '. He pictured their bullet ridden bodies and swayed.

"Your fake dad didn't even fight me, he just took the first bullet in his chest and fell. He twitched as I shot him several more times, but that's it."

"No," Lee mumbled. He grabbed the sides of his head as he pictured his father, the pain and fear he must have felt.

“Your fake mother, however, well, she was far more interesting. Her first bullet was in the back as she tried to run from me."

"Stop it!" Lee shouted, still holding the sides of his head.

"She screamed so loud I thought she was gonna frazzle her vocal chords. I shot her 11 times. She took longer to die."

Lee's fragile mind crumbled. He yanked the door open and ran, ran from Ed's words and the images they created in his mind. Ed's laughter followed him as he sprinted from the house and panicked shouts erupted from the crowd in front of him. Lee was aware of police officers tackling him and knocking him to the ground before darkness seized him completely and he passed out.





***



Lee's eyes were swollen and itchy from the many tears he'd shed, and he pulled the blanket given to him by the detectives tighter around his shoulders. He was entering his third hour of questioning and after listening to his story and taking notes, the two detectives had left the room. They wouldn't tell him whether they'd caught Ed or not, but Lee couldn't see how they hadn't. There'd be many witnesses to verify he'd had no weapon and hadn't hurt anybody. Plus, the woman who'd been traumatised in her home with her son in her arms should have told her story by now.

Still, Lee worried. A police officer had lost his life in the line of duty. If the police felt Lee was to blame in any way, they'd do their best to take him down.

Of the two detectives questioning him, Lee was confident of only one being on his side. He spoke with sympathy as the other glared at him with undisguised contempt.

Lee shivered again and lowered his head, weary and defeated. All he wanted to do, was sleep. Though the horror of the day remained with him, as it would forever, he also felt a strange numbness of his senses. He felt detached from reality and closed off from his own feelings. With his head bowed and the blanket wrapped tightly around his shoulders, he knew he painted a pathetic picture for a suspected accomplice to mass murder. He imagined his parents, dead and bloody, shot down by a madman in their own home, and his sense of detachment and numbness slipped. Grief clutched him so fiercely that he gasped as his shoulders shook with the force of his sobs.

This is how the detectives found him when they re-entered the interrogation room. Lee wouldn't have believed that his situation could become any more horrifying.

He was wrong.

The detective, who Lee believed was on his side began asking questions, the same questions that Lee had already answered. When they reached the point where he and Ed had entered the young mother's house, Lee became angry. "I've already told you what happened! Why don't you go and ask Ed? He'll tell you the same damn thing!"

"And what makes you think Ed will want to talk to us?" The other detective asked this question, who, up until now, had remained silent.

"The sicko wants fame for this. He'll tell you everything you want to know, in detail."

"And he told you this?" The same detective asked. He seemed to have assumed the lead now as the other detective listened quietly.

"Yes. He wants his name known, for everyone to know him and fear him because of what he's done."

"And what's his name again?"

Lee sat back and frowned at both detectives. "What do you mean: what's his name? Ask him! You must have caught him, he was right there in that damn house!"

The detectives shared a look and the sympathetic one nodded.

"Tell me again, Lee, what was Ed wearing?" sympathetic detective asked. Lee frowned again and lowered his head. Staring at the table, he said: "like I told you before — he was wearing a green T-shirt, camouflage trousers, and army style boots." Frustrated, he raised his head and looked at both officers.

The stern detective leaned forward and interlaced his fingers. "So, Ed was wearing the same outfit that you're wearing now?"

Lee's frown was now one of confusion as he looked down and opened the blanket to see his clothes. The green T-shirt he wore was speckled with dried blood, as were his camouflage trousers.

Lee jumped up from his seat and backed into the corner of the small room. "No. No. No. This isn't right." Sympathetic detective rose from his seat and leaned over the desk, patting the air down with his hands as he encouraged Lee to 'take it easy'.

"You switched my clothes when I passed out! You're trying to set me up! I saw that cop killed along with everyone else, but there wasn't anything I could do to stop it!"

Stern detective stood. "There is no Ed, Lee. You're the one all the witnesses saw walking down your street, talking to yourself as you shot everyone in sight."

"No." Lee placed his hands over his ears.

“You're the one Mrs. Donna Melling places in her house, pointing a rifle at her as she held her two-year-old baby in her arms. You spoke to somebody called Ed, then answered in a different voice. There is no Ed. You did all of it!"

The dark place consumed Lee once again as he sank to his knees. Stern detective continued to talk about the crimes, explaining how Lee began with shooting his parents, the motive, they said, was intense rage at the revelation of his adoption, just the day before. Lee cried and continued to hold his hands over his ears, desperately trying to block out the terrible words.

Of course Ed was real. They were trying to set him up because Ed had escaped.

He was vaguely aware of being handcuffed and led from the interrogation room. After mugshots, fingerprints and blood tests, Lee was placed in a holding cell by himself. As his door slammed shut and the sound of the lock clanked through his brain, Lee sank to the ground and wept.

He was sobbing into his raised knees when a sudden, mean laugh startled him. Raising his head, Lee saw Ed sitting on the fold-down bed immediately in front of him.

"Interesting day, eh?" Ed said. "How are you holding up?" He stood and regarded Lee, his expression amused. "I guess the answer to that is — not very well."

Lee wept as Ed's laughter echoed in his head. "I'm not crazy," Lee wailed. "I didn't do it. I'm not crazy!"

"I beg to differ," Ed chuckled, "but you're a complete fruit loop. You'll live the rest of your life in a teeny, tiny cell, with only me to keep you company." Lee held himself and sobbed as Ed laughed. "Don't you worry none about forgetting— I'll make sure to remind you of your horrific crimes every day."

As Lee did during times of extreme emotional stress, he completely shut down. Lee's character slept a deep sleep, allowing Ed to take over completely. He rose to his feet and wiped Lee's tears from his cheek, disgusted and amused at the same time. He clenched his fist and began to pound on the door, calling for an officer's assistance.

Ed smiled as the younger officer's face appeared through the letterbox type peep-hole in his door.

"You wanna know what happened today when I shot that pig down? You get those other pigs back, I'll tell them the whole story."



The End.


Read the first story from my latest release Sinners: Se7en Sins. Se7en Stories.


Lust


Tina felt a tingle as she and Martin drove deeper and deeper into the darkness. She couldn't decide whether it was fear or excitement. They'd left their small town far behind now and hadn't seen a house for about 2 miles. It was exciting and spooky to be out in the middle of nowhere like this, especially since they were looking for a secluded place to park.

Tina glanced sideways at Martin and felt another tingle, this one of arousal. Though she'd only been seeing Martin for nearly four weeks, she was sure he was the one she wanted to lose her virginity to. At 16, she'd held on to hers far longer than any of her friends and couldn't wait until the time she could join in on their conversations about sex. She'd been out with her best friend Racheal that afternoon and bought new underwear and perfume for the occasion. She was a little disappointed that her first time wouldn't be in a bed with candles flickering and soft music playing like she'd fantasised about, but a parked car in the middle of nowhere was almost as hot.

She smiled at Martin as he squinted at the road ahead. He looked like a man on a mission, a man with a goal. She smiled when she remembered the expression on his face when he'd picked her up from her house an hour earlier.

“Where are we off to tonight?” he'd asked as she slid into the passenger seat.

She'd leaned over, kissed him deeply then whispered, “Somewhere dark and quiet. I'm ready.”

His eyes had widened, his mouth hung open. “Really?”

“Really.”

Looking both stunned and delighted, Martin told her he knew of somewhere they could go, and he'd started to drive. No wonder he'd been stunned. They'd had this conversation only one night earlier. Whilst kissing goodnight, Martin's hands had roamed a little farther than they should have. After telling him to stop, that she wasn't ready yet and her parents were just inside the house expecting her to walk through the door at any moment, Martin had told her he understood, that there was no rush and that he really liked her. When he said he'd wait months for her to be ready if that's what it took, Tina's mind was made up.

She was ready to lose her virginity.

She'd had the opportunity to lose her virginity many times before, had been in a relationship with a boy for almost 5 months, but it had never seemed right. Martin made her feel special, like she was the only girl in the world. Her best friend Racheal insisted Tina could do better, that there were far better boys out there and that Martin was only one rung up from being a geek. Tina found that dating someone a little lower down that she was empowering. Though older than Tina by 3 years, Martin wasn't exactly a man of the world. He had a job working at his uncle's car garage, a job he insisted he hated, and lived with his single mother in one of the council houses that sat on the edge of a large estate.

Tina, on the other hand, came from well-off parents, lived in one of the nicest houses in their town and was, even if she said so herself, stunning. With her naturally slim figure, clear complexion and blonde hair that cost close to £100 a month at a salon, finding a boyfriend had never been a problem for Tina. It was finding a decent boy who'd treat her like the treasure she was that proved difficult. She wanted to be desired, to be spoilt. She wanted to feel like she was the only girl in the world. All the boys her own age at school only thought of one thing―sex. Since sex was such a biggie among the boys at her school, Tina was constantly in their sights as one of the popular, best-looking girls who was also a virgin. There were even rumours that the boys in their circle had some sort of bet going with a prize for the boy who finally got Tina into bed.

Though kind of flattering, Tina wasn't a fool. She knew the moment she gave up the goodies, the attention she received from the boys would stop. She didn't want sex to be it. She wanted to be loved for who she was, for a man to desire her with or without her body. In only four weeks, Martin had proven himself to be very genuinely smitten with her. He'd told her numerous times that he'd never have thought he'd get a girl as good-looking as she, and after seeing his ex-girlfriend, she'd understood what he meant. Martin's lack of confidence often baffled Tina, as he was quite attractive. Not handsome in any head-turning teen heart-throb way, but attractive in the boy next door kind of way.

Whatever the reason for Martin's low self-esteem, Tina felt confident and bold in his company. He brought out a confidence in her that no other boy had. She felt relaxed and happy when she was with him and had opened up to him about many things in her life. The most shocking thing was, Martin listened when she talked and offered support and advice where he could.

Whether he knew or understood it, he'd changed Tina. He'd boosted her confidence and self-esteem, helped her to open up and understand who she was and what she wanted. Did she think they would last together in the long term? No, she didn't. Though she liked Martin for a lot of reasons, he was not the boy she saw herself with in the future. She knew for a fine fact he'd be crushed to lose her, but she figured she'd remain a pleasant memory for him and someone to carry a flame for. No, Martin was not the long-term lover she saw herself setting up house with, but he was a sure thing for tonight. The thought of giving herself to a boy that liked her, that may even be a little obsessed with her turned Tina on far more that she'd have thought possible for her first time. She even suspected that Martin was more nervous than she was. It was fortunate that she'd thought to bring protection as she'd be willing to bet that Martin didn't have anything on him.

“Are you nervous?” she asked, breaking the silence.

Martin jerked his head towards her, his eyes wide open. “No,” he blurted. “Are you?”

Tina let out a little laugh. “Yes,” she lied. “This is my first time.”

Martin nodded furiously. “I know. I'm just...I'm just surprised, that's all.”

“Surprised how?”

Martin shrugged. “I just thought that it'd take a lot longer for...you know... for this to happen.”

Tina frowned, suddenly concerned. “Are you ready for this?”

“Are you kidding?” Martin widened his eyes and raised his eyebrows before glancing at her. “I've been thinking about this since we first met. I just didn't expect it to happen so soon.”

“You know you're my first. Right?” Tina asked quickly. She was starting to worry that she'd given Martin the wrong impression. By suddenly springing this on him, what if she'd changed his opinion of her? What if he'd built her up in his mind so much that this sudden turn of events made his impression of her tumble like an unsteady pile of blocks built by the shaky hands of a toddler?

Martin gave a nervous chuckle. “I know. And that puts a lot of pressure on me, you know? You always remember your first. For the rest of your life you'll remember this night. Talk about pressure. I just thought we'd plan ahead for something like this and I'd be able to prepare myself.”

“Ah,” Tina said, nodding. She wondered if he meant preparing himself by masturbating before their date. She'd heard some of the boys saying they did it before a date to help lengthen the experience.

“Speaking of which,” Martin said, shifting in his seat. “Do you have anything? You know, like, protection?”

Tina smiled. “I do. I've prepared for this. I've been planning this surprise for you all day.”

“Good. And what a surprise. I just wish we had somewhere to go. It's a little cliché for you, isn't it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, girl loses her virginity in the back-seat of a car. If this was prom night we'd have the whole cliché in one.”

Tina felt a warmness between her thighs, the mere mention of back-seat enough to stir up some pleasant mental images. Would he be noisy and passionate, holding her tightly as they made love? Or would he pound on her the way the men did in the porno movies she'd watched out of curiosity? Would they remove all their clothes, or just enough to get it in? Would the windows steam up like the scene in Titanic? Would he tell her he loved her during? Would she say it back?

She'd always thought her first time would be nerve-wracking and scary, but all she felt was pure arousal. The anticipation was starting to drive her a little crazy.

“Isn't there anywhere we can stop, like, now?”

Martin raised his eyebrows at her, looking amused. “You know, when I've had naughty thoughts about you, I never thought you'd be the one gagging for it.”

Tina laughed, then became serious. “You're the first boy I've ever felt this way about.”

The goofy look vanished from Martin's face and he concentrated a little too hard on the road ahead. “I feel the same about you. Hey, what about here?”

Tina looked at where Martin was pointing to. It looked like the beginning of a long driveway that twisted to the right. After about 20 feet, large dark hedges flanked both sides of the narrow road. Martin slowed the car to a stop and leaned forward.

“It looks like a driveway,” Tina said, squinting in the darkness for any signs of a house farther down.

“It does,” Martin agreed. “But I don't see any lights from a house or anything.”

“What if we park there and someone comes along.”

“We've been on this road about 10 minutes now and we haven't seen another car,” Martin pointed out. “Plus, we'll have plenty of time to move if another car comes along because we'll spot it a mile off.”

Tina glanced around and realised he was right. This particular stretch of road was quite straight with nothing on either side but trees and fields.

“But this road must go somewhere,” she insisted.

“If it's a driveway, it's a long driveway. We'll definitely spot the car before the driver spots us. It'll give us plenty of time to drive away, plus, we're completely hidden from the road. No-one will spot us here unless they actually turn onto this road.”

Tina pictured she and Martin in the back-seat of his car, completely naked and going at it when the car's interior lights up, warning them of an approaching car. Far from putting her off, the thoughts aroused her even more.

“Okay,” she said softly, trying to mask her sudden arousal. “Here's good.”

Martin nodded, drove forward slightly then began to back onto the narrow road. Obviously, he was thinking of having to make a speedy getaway and wanted the car pointed in the right direction. Once the car had come to a stop and Martin had turned the engine off, Tina glanced behind them. The road they sat on seemed to disappear to be replaced with nothing but blackness. Tina imagined the road being the driveway to an old farmhouse. She pictured an old man, staring out of his window right now, frowning in the direction of the two red lights from the back of the car as it parked on his property. She pictured him throwing on a jacket and slipping his feet into old, worn wellington boots and trudging his way up the driveway that'd bring him to the back of the car. She imagined him carrying a torch, a torch he'd shine into the back-seat as he tried to figure out what was going on, then, he'd catch she and Martin, naked in each other's arms. The thoughts turned her on for about a split second when she suddenly remembered a story she'd read recently. She couldn't remember the title, but the story was about a bunch of teens whose car had broken down. They'd accepted help from a kind stranger who’d taken the teens back to the farm he lived on with his family where his mother had insisted the teens stay for dinner. The teens had accepted, only to find out they were on the menu.

Tina shuddered. Now why did I have to think of that?

“Are you feeling nervous now?” Martin asked. “Because we don't have to do anything you don't want to do.”

Though Martin's nice-guy attitude was the main reason Tina wanted him so badly, she had to admit that right now it was a bit of a mood kill.

“I am nervous, but I'm sure I want to do this. I'm ready for you.”

She unbuckled her belt and Martin did the same. They looked at each other for a few seconds, both suddenly unsure of what to do next.

“Music!” Martin suddenly blurted. As he reached for the dial on the stereo, Tina grabbed his wrist.

“No music,” she said softly.

Martin gazed into her eyes and her heart sped up. Though she'd been the object of plenty a boy's lust, she didn't ever remember a time that someone had looked at her the way Martin was looking at her right now. Mixed in with the sexual desire was a deep longing for her, to have her near and close, to hold her tightly and never let go. At least that's what Tina liked to think she was seeing in his eyes. It could just be a good old-fashioned need to slip inside her.

“How exactly do we do this?” she whispered.

“You could put your seat all the way back. Then, you know, I can get on top of you.”

Tina felt some of her mood subside. “So, you've done this before then?”

Just as quickly as the fire inside her died a little, Martin stoked it back up by kissing her so suddenly, so deeply and with so much passion that Tina forgot to be put off by the fact he had indeed done this with another girl, probably his pig-looking ex-girlfriend. He slid his tongue into her mouth and she flicked it slightly with her own. The quiet moan he let out caused a surge of heat that spread from her stomach to her thighs and in-between. He held her face in his hands as he kissed her deeply, pressing himself into her. Tina quickly realised that, though having sex in a car sounded hot, it was in fact frustrating. She wanted Martin all over her, on top of her with no clothing in the way of their bare hot skin. Instead, they were both twisted awkwardly in their seats with numerous layers of clothing serving as barriers to what lay beneath.

When the movies portrayed sex in a car, they made it look easy and passionate. Tina was becoming more frustrated by the second.

She pulled herself away from Martin. “This isn't working too well,” she gasped.

Martin gasped too as he looked her in the eye. “You wanna climb into the back-seat?”

At that point, Tina was willing to get out of the car and lay down on the bare ground. “Okay. Let me go first.”

She unbuckled her seatbelt and climbed in between the driver's and passenger's side seat and threw herself onto the seat. It’s really dark back here. Her heart raced a little as fear mingled with her desire. Martin remained in the front-seat.

“What're you doing?”

“Erm, unbuckling my belt. I'll climb out and get in the back-seat with you in a sec.”

Quickly, Tina removed her jacket, trying not to make too much noise. She had another surprise for Martin. As he continued to fumble with the belt buckle at his waist, she slowly unbuttoned the light pink blouse she wore. She hadn't worn a bra as she knew from her friends, both the girls and the boys, that bras meant a lot of fiddling. She wanted his hands on her bare skin immediately. Done with the last button, she opened the blouse slowly and looked down. Though it was dark, the light of her skin seemed to glow. Her breasts heaved with every inhale of breath and she smiled at the darkness that was her nipples. Martin may not be able to see everything due to the poor light, but he'd see enough. She pulled the blouse down slightly, leaving her shoulders bare. Quickly, she raised her skirt up so it bunched around her waist.

She was ready.


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