Stephen J. Semones
Published by Millenia Press
Copyright 2015 Stephen J. Semones
This story is an exclusive short story, or "one-shot", appearing at the end of the GLOOM: Volume One e-book collection. It was written as a continuation of the GLOOM saga, but something that could stand-alone by itself. If you haven't read the first three books, there may be potential spoilers.
The city was quiet. It had been nearly a year since the war for Detroit ended. Seeing a change sweeping across the city, the citizens were finally realizing there could be hope and prosperity. Crime had decreased, jobs had increased, and it seemed the city was on the upswing. The downtown area, still ravaged from attacks, had mostly been cleaned up and was undergoing heavy construction, a project that would last for a few years.
Gloom had virtually disappeared from radar, becoming a silent enigma, a shadowy figure still fighting for the downtrodden and the hopeless. Working under the cloak of darkness, Gloom had become a fable, a word-of-mouth legend between criminals. They feared him, knowing he single-handedly took down Frank Sorino and scattered his criminal organization to the brink of bankruptcy. He was now a myth, a story criminals would sit around and tell each other, embellishing the time they saw his blacked-out GTO pass by or caught a glimpse of his skeletal face before he physically overpowered a gang member.
The fallout caused by Gloom was great. Drugs were no longer regularly distributed as the police looked the other way. Criminals were getting arrested and staying incarcerated, the judicial system prosecuting lawbreakers to the fullest extent of the law. Gangs were scattered, torn apart by arrests, drug busts, and lack of activity. The once flourishing business of gang activity was now a wounded animal, one Gloom was certain to soon put out of its misery. It was only a matter of time.
Gloom had changed the city for good, giving Detroit a chance, administering the antidote to Frank Sorino’s poison. Each night he would patrol, assisting the still-spread-too-thin police department in stopping crime, leaving the disarmed or incapacitated criminals for them to process into the system. It seemed to work, as each week the crime rate dropped more and more. Sooner or later Gloom figured he would have to retire once and for all.
It was a night just like any other. Mostly quiet with the occasional thug attempting to rob a convenience store, a domestic dispute, a drunk driver plowing into a guardrail, and a few teenagers spray painting houses in their neighborhood. Gloom had been patrolling Detroit for nearly an hour, driving his GTO through the backstreets and alleyways, waiting for Justin to give him any update or report of criminal activity the police couldn’t immediately respond to.
“Are you bored yet?” Justin asked over the ear piece.
“I’m getting there,” Gloom responded with a slight chuckle. “Check the precinct scanner near the river. We haven’t heard anything from that area in a while.”
“You got it,” Justin responded.
Gloom drove, unsure of a destination. He maneuvered through the streets, noticing how peaceful the city had become. Sure, it still had crime and violence, but nothing like before. He felt as if he had made a difference, giving the citizens exactly what they needed. Hope.
“Gloom, we’ve got nothing on the riverfront, but I’ve got some unusual chatter coming from the west-side precinct,” Justin said.
“Go ahead,” Gloom said, turning onto a nearby street and heading toward the west side of town.
“A body was apparently found in an alleyway,” Justin began. “Police are keeping it quiet, but I was able to pull the secure radio bandwidth and listen in. It appears to be a murder- the third one in a week. They haven’t said anything regarding details, but I heard an officer state the wounds appeared to be just like the other two.”
“Not really... just cop talk and speculation,” Justin replied.
“Do you have an address?”
“Seventh Avenue- behind the Flower’s Spa,” Justin said.
“Strange,” Gloom said. “They said this is the third body? I wonder how the first two got past us…”
“That’s what they said. A call came in telling them to keep it quiet from anyone outside the department. I assume we were just wrapped up elsewhere and simply missed them. I’ll look into it further,” Justin said.
“Thanks,” Gloom said, pushing the gas pedal to the floor. He was about ten minutes away and knew he would have to park away from the crime scene and sneak past the police to have a look around. As he drove, he wondered why the police were keeping things quiet. With the new police force in place, Gloom knew it was out of character for them to want anything secretive. In the last few months, they had prided themselves on being transparent with the public, a feat they were quickly gaining a great reputation for.
Gloom parked the GTO several blocks away, driving it behind an abandoned gas station, making sure it was out of sight beside of three old dumpsters. He leaped from the car and sprinted across the street, jumping to a fire escape on an old apartment building and climbing to the roof. Within a minute he was making his way across the rooftops, slowly approaching the crime scene in the alleyway behind the spa. Finding himself on an adjacent building, he looked down at the police officers below. They moved about, taking pictures, talking to one another, and speculating on what had happened to the victim.
Several stories in the air, perched in the shadowy blackness of the adjacent building’s roof, Gloom took as much information in as possible, using the heads-up-display in his goggles to record everything.
“I need this footage analyzed,” he whispered.
“Working on it,” Justin replied in his ear.
Gloom watched as, down below him, a police officer surveyed the alley with a man in a grey suit. The man was a detective. From the stubble covering his face, to the cup of lukewarm coffee in his hand, to the loosely fitting suit- Gloom knew he was pulling lead on the case.
“Give me a read on the man in the suit,” Gloom said.
He watched, taking note of the man’s demeanor as he listened to the officer beside him. The officer laid out his opinion of the crime, pointing in various directions and then at the body, which was covered by a black, police tarp.
“Detective Glenn Sommers- he’s a transfer from Chicago,” Justin said in his ear. “From what I can see by glancing at his file, he’s a former homicide detective, born and raised in Chicago. Transferred here about two months ago to help with the department’s rebuilding phase. He’s highly decorated and very well respected amongst his peers.”
“Thanks,” Gloom said, eying the man. He took a sip of his coffee, listening to the officer. Finally, the officer stopped explaining his theory and knelt down, pulling the tarp back from the body. The detective stepped back, appalled at the sight before him. Propped against the building was a man, early twenties, his chest cut open revealing a large, fist-sized hole.
“Dear God!” Detective Sommers exclaimed as the officer put the tarp back over the man. “Have we found his heart?”
The officer shook his head.
“Are you getting this, Justin?” Gloom whispered.
“Hack the department, look for any similar cases in the last week,” he instructed.
“Working…” Justin replied, his voice shaky.
Gloom watched the detective and wondered why a man who had worked in Chicago was taken aback by the grisly scene. Surely he’s seen worse he thought. The detective began barking orders, instructing the uniformed officers to block the streets further back than they already had.
“Gloom, this is just like the previous two bodies found. All of them were young men, early twenties, all missing their hearts. It looks like Detroit has a serial killer on its hands,” Justin said in his ear.
“Pull the files. Make sure you get everything,” Gloom instructed. “Also, get all the information you can on Detective Sommers.”
“Already on it,” Justin replied.
Gloom watched from above, the officers all seemed genuinely distraught at the sight of the body. He scanned the area, watching the police barricade the street farther back, ensuring no press or citizens could see the alleyway. As he looked around, trying to find anything the cops may have missed, Gloom saw a woman standing in the middle of a small crowd that was starting to gather nearby. They were being ushered further back as two officers ran tape across the adjacent street, showing them where to stand. He caught the woman out of the corner of his eye, at first thinking nothing about it. Then, as if something stood out about her, he noticed a hint of a smile in the corner of her mouth. The look in her eyes, her facial expression, told of how she seemed to be enjoying the tragic event. He adjusted his goggles, zooming in to get a better view of her. She was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, the hood pulled over her shoulder-length brown hair. He guessed her to be around thirty years old. As soon as he got a good look at her, she turned and disappeared into the crowd.
“Justin, run that woman’s face in your database,” Gloom ordered.
He scrambled away from the ledge and jumped to the adjacent building. He saw her, in the distance, as he leaped onto the fire escape. Gloom took the steps two and three at a time until he hit the ground. He moved into the open, looking for the woman. She was gone.
Thinking he had lost her, Gloom sprinted back to the GTO and pulled onto the street just as a car passed by, the woman sitting in the driver’s seat. She glanced in his direction but kept driving, paying him no mind. He got behind her, keeping his distance.
“I’ve got nothing on her- no matching driver’s license, no passport photo and nothing through the police department. The scan of her face is pulling nothing from Interpol either. It’s like she doesn’t exist,” Justin explained.
Gloom thought about it for a moment. “That’s definitely strange.”
“Get close enough to get a shot of her plates,” Justin said.
Gloom sped up, trying to maintain enough distance between them as to not draw suspicion. She stopped at a light, waiting for it to change. He pulled behind her and read her license plate aloud. “T-V-P-9-4-4-L… I repeat- tango, victor, papa, nine, four, four, lima.”
“Running them now.”
Then, as the light was still glowing red, the woman’s car suddenly jumped forward, speeding through the light and making a quick turn onto the freeway. Gloom watched, debating what to do. The light changed to green and he stomped the gas, turning onto the freeway behind her.
Reaching the top of the on-ramp, Gloom looked for the car. It was gone, blended in to the speeding traffic. He weaved in and out of the cars, trying to catch a glimpse of the car. It was as if she vanished into thin air.
“The car was reported stolen yesterday, Gloom,” Justin said. “It was taken out of a driveway across town.”
“I’ve lost her,” Gloom said, looking around.
“I’m pulling the traffic feed now. I’ll find her,” Justin assured him.
Gloom sped up, wondering where the woman could have gone. He was only a few seconds behind her. She couldn’t have gone far. Then it hit him. There was no barrier separating the lanes of the traffic near the on-ramp. She drove straight across and went the opposite way.
“Justin- pull the feed and watch the ramp. She went the other way,” Gloom said.
The barrier ended as the freeway approached another exit. He slowed down and whipped the wheel, turning the GTO in the middle of the highway. He pushed the gas pedal to the floor and changed gears, speeding back in the direction he came.
“You’re right,” Justin said. “She went straight across and headed the opposite way. I’ve got her now taking exit 403 and heading away from the city.”
“I’m on it,” Gloom returned.
Gloom shifted gears, speeding toward the exit Justin mentioned. It was a few miles back, but the GTO could make great time. He hoped to catch her before she could disappear for good. Within a minute, and traveling in excess of a hundred and twenty miles per hour, Gloom reached exit 403. He slowed, taking the exit carefully, and found himself leaving the city on a smaller road.
“Any sight of her?”
“Take your first left onto Baker and then a right onto Greenway. She pulled into a lot in an old apartment complex. There are no more cameras at that point, but I believe she stopped,” Justin said.
Before Justin had finished speaking, Gloom was already on Greenway Boulevard, looking for an apartment building. He saw it, pulling into the empty lot. A large sign hung on a tall, chain-linked fence, telling of how the property was condemned and awaiting demolition for a new housing project in development. The building was an old, eight story complex, the outside appearance definitely showing its age.
He slowed the GTO to a stop and looked around. At the opposite end of the parking lot was the woman’s stolen car. No one was around, the area completely quiet and devoid of lighting. He barely saw the car and, if it weren’t for the moon, he would have missed it completely. Gloom scanned the area, looking for any sign of the woman. She had disappeared. He switched his goggles to night vision, turning everything to bright green. He looked toward the building, still no lights or sign of anyone could be found.
“It’s creepy,” Justin said in his ear.
Gloom didn’t reply. Silently, he crept toward the empty apartment complex. He drew a pistol from the holster on his hip, keeping the weapon at the ready. As he approached the building, Gloom saw the lobby door was slightly ajar. He peered in the double-glass doors, looking for any sign of the woman. The building inside was a mess, most of the ceiling caved in and drywall crumbling from the old, wood framing. Suddenly, he understood why the building had been condemned. Graffiti lined what was left of the walls, gang signs and various other vandalism acts were spray-painted randomly throughout. Gently, he grabbed the door and slowly pushed it open.
Inside, the building smelled of rotten wood, a dank smell that stung his nostrils upon entering. The lobby had been destroyed, an act of violent vandals who had knocked holes in the reception desk, the walls, ceiling, and floor. What was left of the furniture was broken to pieces, and scattered about the floor. Lightly he stepped, doing his best to not make a sound. Gloom tightened the grip on his pistol, just in case of a surprise.
The building was just as quiet on the inside as it was out. The silence unnerved him, chilling him directly to his core. Gloom wasn’t easy to spook, but the quiet, the darkness, the smell- it started to affect him. As he walked down the long hallway filled with apartments, he began to wonder if the woman he was following had even come in the building. He knew it was possible she could have just dumped her car in the lot and made for an adjacent empty building.
Halfway down the hall, a scurrying sound suddenly erupted in a nearby apartment. Carefully, he held his pistol at the ready and gently pushed the door open. Inside, a rat the size of a small dog ran toward him. Its eyes glowed in his night vision, giving it a supernatural and otherworldly appearance. He staggered back, bracing himself against the wall as the rat charged from the room. His finger gently twitched on the trigger as he decided whether to shoot the vermin. After a second of deciding, he removed his finger from the trigger, realizing if he fired he could alert anyone in the building. The rat stopped in front of him, squeaking and hissing. He nudged it with his boot, urging it back into the room. Reluctantly, the rat returned to the room.
“That thing was hideous,” Justin said.
Gloom ignored the comment, returning to his search. At the end of the long hallway was an old elevator, long out of use. Beside it was a doorway for the emergency stairs. It hung by only the top hinge, the large, metal door gently swaying back and forth on a corner. He gently pushed the door and stuck his head in the stairwell. He looked around and saw nothing.
He made his way up to the second floor, watching above him the entire time. He was still unsure if the woman was in the building, thinking another rat could have moved the stairwell door. Regardless, Gloom kept his pistol at the ready.
The door leading to the second floor apartments was locked and, peering through the small window, he could tell one would have a hard time navigating the hallway. From what he could see, most of the ceiling had caved in, revealing most of the third floor above it. He decided to keep moving, checking the third floor door. It, just like the previous, was locked. The floor had indeed fallen through making most of the hallway impassable.
Gloom moved up another floor and tried the doorway. It was unlocked and, being as quiet as he could, pulled it open and stepped inside. He moved door to door, checking each apartment for anyone inside. Most of the doors were locked, the rest were empty. Giving up on the fourth floor, Gloom went back and up the stairs to the fifth.
The door was unlocked. As he was about to enter, he noticed something strange. Peering through the window, Gloom noticed a line running across the ground in front of the door. It ran across the hallway and up each wall. There, above the door and mounted to the ceiling, were randomly placed pots and pans. A tripwire alarm he thought, knowing if he hadn’t seen it, he could have alerted anyone else in the building. He opened the door and stepped over the wire, carefully watching for any further traps or alarms.
Gloom was halfway down the hall before he found an unlocked door. Upon opening it, he saw nothing and wondered if this complex wasn’t just a haven for the homeless and the alarm was put there to warn of police or other intruders. Still, he checked every apartment he could. Eventually, the fifth floor turned up just like the previous- empty.
The sixth floor door was open and, growing tired of searching an abandoned building and the only sign of life around being a giant rat, Gloom decided to make it his final floor and go back to see if the woman returned to her car or could be found in another nearby building. As he pushed the door open, a putrid, sickening smell overpowered his senses. He stepped back into the stairwell, pulled down his skull bandana, and removed the plating that covered the lower half of his face. The air in the stairwell was dank and musty, but much better than what had just hit him. His stomach churned, the food he ate earlier in the day threatening a return. He grabbed the stair railing, bracing himself until he could gain his composure.
“Gloom, are you okay?” Justin asked.
“Y-Yeah…give…give me a minute,” he gasped.
After several moments, Gloom decided he had to find out what the odor was. The stench was so strong, as it still lingered in his nostrils, and reeked of rot- decay. It was the smell of death, something he didn’t have to see to identify. It was a stench he would never forget. He knew it had to be a body, maybe more than one. Psyching himself up mentally, Gloom reattached the faceplate and pulled his bandana back in place. Deciding to breathe only through his mouth, he grabbed the door and pulled it back open.
As the door closed behind him, Gloom drew both of his pistols and quietly took each step carefully. He checked each apartment as he went through the hallway, seeing nothing that would produce such a horrible stench. As he made it near the center of the hallway, he came across a locked door. He wouldn’t have found it strange, but a small trace of light seeped through a crack at the edge of the door. It showed as a glowing white illumination in the green visuals of his night-vision.
Examining the door, Gloom decided to try and pick the lock. If anyone was on the other side, he would do his best to surprise them. He holstered his pistols and grabbed his lock-pick kit from the small bag he kept attached to his belt and immediately went to work. As he felt the tumblers on the lock move and click, Gloom did his best to remain silent. Suddenly, he felt vibrations on the floor, as if someone were walking. The old hallway creaked and groaned, slightly moving underneath him. He pulled the pick from the lock and put away his kit. Removing the pistols from their holsters, he stood. No sooner than he turned, a figure came into view and swung a large object, sending him reeling backward and crashing to the floor.