Crime Suspense Horror

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

I tried the door again, but it was locked, just like it had been when I tried it the other half a dozen times. I banged my fist against it then, the metal ringing with each hit. “Hello!” I called out, hoping someone would hear me this time, someone would call back or open the door. “Is there anyone there?”

“Just give it a rest, already.” The man sharing the room said quietly. “I promise you, you do not want the people on the other side of the door to open it for you.” He never even looked up at me; He just kept clawing at the razor-thin crack on the wall furthest from the door where two sheets of metal were joined. There were streaks of blood in various shades from the multiple attempts that had been made to get any sort of purchase on one piece or the other.

I turned my head toward him, subsiding from my screams and resting my now throbbing hand on the door. “So what, I should just claw at the walls instead, like some sort of rat in a cage?” I leaned my head against the door then, knowing that he was right.

“I already told you, if you go through that door you don’t come back, and they definitely aren’t going to let you go free. Why are you here, anyway?” The man stopped his work and turned to me, sitting on the stainless-steel floor. He grabbed the plastic water jug and took a small sip of it, then held it out to me. I hesitated, then walked across the room and took it.

The warm liquid was ambrosia. It rolled across my cracked lips onto my swollen tongue, and soothed my aching throat. I drank it quickly, greedily, until the man stopped me. “Woah. Don’t overdo it. You will make yourself sick. They won’t give us more until they bring someone else in, either.”

“Someone else? What do you mean? Where are we?” I tried to put the few pieces of this maddening puzzle together, but none of them fit. “Who are you?” I realized then that this man seemed to know where they were, or why they were here. Something, which was more than I knew no matter how you sliced it.

“We will probably get two or three more people in here before they start taking us again. When I first came, there were already four others. They add one every day. They have brought in more than one at a time, but that isn’t too common.” He looked around at the mostly empty room, then looked back at me. “Where we are doesn’t matter. The question is, why did they pick you up? As far as who I am… Let’s just say I’m just another poor sucker that needed something he couldn’t afford, and went to the wrong people to get it. You can call me Jack.”

“Tanner,” I responded, instinctually reaching out my hand to shake his. He just stared, not getting up from his spot on the floor. I passed him back the water and wiped my mouth on my forearm. “I don’t know why anyone would pick me up.” This was the truth. I was racking my brain trying to think of any reason someone would want to hurt me.

“No incurable illnesses? No cheating wife that needed to be taken care of discreetly? Hell, one guy said they picked him up for selling the gun that was used to kill the daughter of a prominent politician. I’m not sure exactly who’s in charge, but you had to have had your hand in something bad, or made a deal and not kept up your end of it.” Jack looked at me inquisitively, like he was trying to find out exactly which side of the coin I was on – desperate citizen or arms dealer.

“I sell roast beef sandwiches for a living. I barely got out of high school. The worst thing I ever did was sold some weed to my friend.” I was silent for a moment, then had a terrible thought. “Oh God! It was just a gram! There’s no way that someone could bring me here for that, right?” I stared at Jack, not thinking he had the answer but still needing him to answer me.

“I wouldn’t think that you would be friends with one of these guys and not know it. Are you sure you don’t have some nasty little secret? Didn’t take a practical joke a little too far in high school?” We stared at each other for a long moment, me not wanting to respond to the line of questions any longer.

“Well, it really doesn’t matter if you want to tell me or not. You’re here. The others told me nobody has lasted longer than a week. I’m on day five, so I think it’s safe to say I’m next. I’ll let you know what I can before my time comes. Do the same for whoever comes in after you.”

Jack pulled out a small rectangle of paper and unfolded it. The creases were starting to tear, and I could see at least three different colors of ink, and many different styles of handwriting across the tattered page.

“This is a list of everyone that has died here. The hope is that if someone gets out, this list can give people a chance to get closure, or maybe revenge for some of them.” He passed me the list, the first few taking up a couple of lines apiece with reasons why they were there, messages to loved ones, and even one that wrote, “My ghost will screw your mother,” and labeled it ‘a love note to our captors.’ About halfway down the front page, people began just writing their names and a number beside them.

               Brice Dixon – 5

               Allan Oliver Graham – 7

               Carlos Martinez – 3

               Thomas Lindon – 6

The rest of the front page was like this, and the back was more of the same. I read each name, the paper shaking in my hand. There must have been over fifty names on the list. The name on the last line read “Jackson L. Pope.” There was no number next to his name. I looked up to him, the horror that I was feeling not hiding in my voice as I said, “Some of them only lasted a day. Most only three.” I held the paper back out to him, but he shook his head and pursed his lips.

“No, I had my turn, and it looks like I won’t be the one to get out. I was told that the ones that only lasted a day either killed themselves or got killed. One guy, Paul, came in three days ago and told this big guy he was gonna take his shoes. Big guy reached out, straight face and steady hands, and popped his head all the way around. It was just like a movie.”

Jack was silent for a moment, then added, “Eric. Eric Pitts. That was the big guy’s name. They put us all out after Eric punched Paul’s ticket. Pumped the room full of gas or something. When we came to, Paul’s body was gone. So was Eric.”

I looked at him sympathetically, the story just as incredible as everything else I had seen over the last few hours. “Nobody has ever left and … come back?” I could guess what his answer would be, but I had to ask anyway.

“No. Nobody has ever seen the door open, either. Whoever is running things here has a pretty good system. No holes, no guards to charm. Never seen anything like it, except maybe in movies.” He smiled then, adding, “Kinda funny, getting to appreciate how well thought-out your murder is.” His eyes finally regained focus. “Oh, yeah!”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pen. He held it out to me, his eyes looking a little more frantic now. “Write your name on it, then tomorrow you can pass it on to whoever shows up. When I disappear, make sure to record it for me… If you are still around, I mean.”

I reached out for the pen, taking it and then writing my name as neatly as I could on the sheet. I folded it up and put it in my pocket, along with the pen. “So, there’s someone new every day? And you don’t know where they go when they leave here?” I was doing my best to stay calm, keep a level head. I wouldn’t be able to find a way out without keeping a level head.

“From what I have been told, at least one a day. Sometimes two or three.” Jack shrugged. “Nobody knows how long they are actually here. We only know that, once every handful of hours, someone fills the room up with some gas, and when we wake up someone probably left and someone new arrived.”

“So, what is behind the metal?” I pointed to the lone break in the room’s smooth metal walls. I couldn’t see what could possibly be back there. Maybe that was another one of the secrets that had been passed down across several different people that were all subject to this nightmare.

I was very disappointed with his answer. “I don’t know. Nobody knows. The blood is there, and one of the people that was here when I got here, Anna, said that it was the actual door, and that the other side – what seemed like the door to the room – was just one more thing to make us lose our minds. I don’t know if I believe it, but I guess I’m a bit more desperate than I was when Anna was trying to claw her way through.” He laughed at himself, shaking his head. “It’s all so silly, isn’t it?”

I don’t know, Mr. Pope,” I said. My voice didn’t have the same tremor that it had up to this point. I looked Jack in the eye, watched as all of his hope left his body. “Ah, I think you recognize me now, don’t you?” I smiled then, dropping the act I had been putting on.

“I told you, Jack. I don’t care what the judge said. I don’t care how much your lawyers spun you to be a regular good ol’ boy. You left that baby girl for dead. You left her in a ditch, crying for her mommy.” I pulled the pen out of my pocket, gripping it at the end.

“She was nine years old, Jack.” I lifted the pen high in the air.

“She didn’t even know what you were doing to her, she just knew you were hurting her.” I brought the pen down as hard as I could into his face.

“She couldn’t shake what you did to her until the day she took her own life.” I pulled the pen out of his face, lifted, and brought it down again and again.

My arm failed me before I stopped. When I no longer had the strength to lift it, I spat on the bloody mess that was left. I sat there for a minute, reveling in the fact that I had finally avenged my little angel from the monster that took her from me.

I pulled the paper back out of my pocket then, smoothing it across his stiffening chest, and scratched the number 5 next to his name. “Open the damn door,” I called out. The wall began to part, the bloody streaks splitting at the seams. Half a dozen men came into the room, carrying Jack’s limp frame out and bringing in a gallon of water and a new pen.

“I’m going home. Someone get Marco on the phone, tell him we took care of that problem for him. I think we should start on the boy that killed the family next. Drunk driver, got off with a slap on the wrist. He just finished up his parole. I hear he works for his dad now. What was his name again?”

January 22, 2024 12:32

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