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Thriller Suspense

This story contains sensitive content

**Trigger warning: this story contains depictions of mental health and physical violence that some readers may find unsettling. Reader discretion is advised.

Detective Harley spun around, right hand moving instinctively to his hip. He could have sworn the sound of footfalls had come from just over his shoulder. His 180 complete, the Detective's eyes alighted on nothing save for his reflection, which seemed to stretch on indefinitely down the three mirror-lined hallways.

"Damnit, Franklin!" he screamed, "Where are you?" Steeling himself, Harley tried to slow his racing heart, lest its rampant pumping pollute his ears and drown out any reply from his quarry. After several tense seconds, during which the aged Detective held his breath and strained his hearing as best he could, Harley took a step forward. Gazing down the three hallways before him, he cursed to himself before deftly entering the rightmost corridor.

"Detective..." The call echoed like a malicious sneer, rebounding off the scores of reflective glass surrounding Harley. "Are you coming to get me? I'd hurry if I were you. I don't think our...guest...will make it much longer."

All but hearing the smirk that most certainly coincided with Franklin's words made Harley's blood boil. He quickened his pursuit. "Where are you, you son of a bitch!" the Detective growled. "I'll kill you, damn it, I will rip you limb from limb if you hurt her!"

"Now, now, Detective," came the response chidingly, "there is no need to be so crass, especially when a lady is present! Speaking of...oh, Helen, darling..."

The laughter that followed Franklin's words thundered down the hallway towards Harley. Like a sentient tempest, it enveloped him, sweeping him up as if he were no more than a weed clinging hopelessly to a summer-dry creek bed, stoking the flames of his white-hot anger. The sudden sound of rupturing glass yanked Harley back into reality. Glancing down, he could already see the blood flowing from where shards of mirror had become lodged in his knuckles. Taking his fist from the wall, the Detective (heedless of the pain) plucked the jagged fragments from his skin before sprinting the remaining length of the corridor. 

Around every turn, Harley expected to come face to face with the killer whom he pursued. Yet, at every turn, he was met with more mirrored pathways and a cacophony of Franklin's maniacal laughter. Left, right, straight—it didn't matter which direction he went. The result was always the same: Harley would come to the end of one hallway only to be greeted with three more. On and on, the process repeated until the Detective lost track of how many futile turns he had taken. 

Frustrated, out of breath, and failing to stave off the dread threatening to eat away at his sanity, Harley suddenly saw something that made his heart stop. As he rounded the corner of the previous path, he noticed a hole in one of the hallway's mirrors, beneath which lay a pool of blood. His blood. Defeated, the Detective sank to his knees.

"How..." he began, voice strained by exertion and eyes clouded by hate and tears." "How can I be back here?"

"Poor, poor Detective Harley," Franklin's disembodied voice rang out across the sea of shattered glass. Harley looked around wildly. "Tsk, tsk. Helen and I were afraid this might happen. She had just gotten through telling me how bad your sense of direction is. Perhaps you need some guidance from a friend?"

Gazing hopelessly into the mirror before him, Harley saw Franklin materialize behind him. Spinning and lashing out with all the might and ferocity he could muster, Harley's body slammed violently into the mirror on the opposite side of the hallway.

"Detective!" Franklin's voice scolded sharply, "You didn't really expect me to be right there, did you? Come now. Surely your instincts aren't so far gone as to think that I—someone who very much values his life—would be foolish enough to join you when you are in such a…delicate state?"

Harley growled, pounding his fists and throwing his body violently into each mirror that comprised his current Hell. "Enough games, Franklin! Come out here, now! Face me, you bastard. Face me, and let's end this!" The challenge flew from his throat violently, and the disdain attached to each word sounded fiercely unfamiliar to his ears. With his lucidity waning due to rage and blood loss, Harley walked onwards, not wanting to give Franklin the satisfaction of seeing him falter. 

"Stop!" The call was issued suddenly. It lacked the twisted playfulness that usually shrouded Franklin's words. Surprised at how readily his body responded to the order, Harley came to a standstill. "Stop right there, Detective," Franklin shouted, "I've reached a decision. As amusing as this game has been, I've grown bored. Your inability to navigate even this most rudimentary of mazes has left me, shall we say, disappointed. Pile on the fact that our dear, sweet Helen won't cease her insufferable weeping, and you can see why my appetite for this charade has abated. So, Detective, here is what we are going to do. I am going to let you find me. As a matter of fact, I will lead you right to me so we can wrap this whole thing up! Now, before I change my mind, I need you to..."

Harley ran. Lungs burning, vision blurring, he ran. Heeding Franklin's directions as if his very life depended on it, which—given his diminishing state—was not far from the truth. Harley bounded down every twist and turn without even noticing his mirrored reflections. As the far end of what he hoped was the last hallway came into view, it happened. Ringing out and reverberating off the myriad of reflective surfaces came the undeniable sound of a gunshot. 

Harley felt his blood grow cold as fear washed over him. Before he knew what he was doing, he sprang into action, long-since tired legs catapulting him at break-neck speeds down the remainder of the corridor. Reaching the end of the path, Harley stumbled to a stop to prevent himself from running headlong into the giant mirrored wall before him. Angered, scared, and confused as to the geometry of the madhouse he found himself in, the aging Detective sharply inhaled as the lights around him suddenly extinguished, plunging him—and his unseen target—into utter darkness.

"Finally..." In the darkness, Harley could scarcely tell where the voice was coming from, but the hairs rising on the back of his neck let him know it was close. "Finally, you arrive." The morose tone of Franklin's words renewed the fear that had been ravaging the Detective, but he didn't know why. Carefully moving backward to avoid being ambushed in the darkness, Harley jumped as an icy hand suddenly gripped his shoulder and whispered, "Finally, we reach the end..."

The scream Harley heard as the lights suddenly shot on sounded so hopeless, so deranged. It took several moments for the Detective to piece together that the cry had been his own. With his vision restored, the Detective's eyes were immediately drawn to the body on the floor. The body of a woman. The body of his wife, Helen. Surrounded by too much blood, her diminutive form lay pale and lifeless. Harley collapsed next to her. Gently positioning her head in his lap, he cupped her cold face and wept.

"Oh Helen," he mourned, "I'm so sorry. I'm so, so sorry. You didn't deserve to go like this. Not here. Not like this. Oh, Helen. Oh, God." Sparing one more moment to hold the love of his life in his arms, Harley softly closed Helen's eyes and laid her back down. Removing his jacket so that he could cover her and give her some measure of dignity, Harley knelt back down beside his wife. "Sleep now, my love. I will be joining you soon." With one final glance at Helen's body, he stood up and stared out into the mirror-lined hallway he had entered through.

"Franklin!" The name burned his throat. "I'll kill you for this! I'll fucking kill you!" With hatred and vengeful intent fueling him, Harley made to re-enter the mirrored maze, but something he saw from the corner of his eye stopped him. Walking back towards Helen's body, he noticed something metallic lying just outside her reach. It was a gun. His gun. Struggling to comprehend what he saw, Harley's hand immediately went to his hip, practiced fingers reaching reflexively for a firearm that wasn't there.

"How? What? What is going on? No. No! What is going on?" As panic overtook him, the lights went out again, plunging Harley back into cold, unadulterated darkness. The Detective screamed, railing against the dark with all the anger and fear of a cornered animal. The lights turned on.  

Detective Harley spun around, right hand moving instinctively to his hip. He could have sworn the sound of footfalls had come from just over his shoulder. His 180 complete, the Detective's eyes alighted on nothing save for his reflection, which seemed to stretch on indefinitely down the multiple mirror-lined hallways. "Damnit, Franklin!" he screamed, "Where are you?"

***

"What do you think it's like for him in there?" Natalie asked, her gaze stuck on the man intensely staring into the singular polished metal mirror that adorned his otherwise padded cell.

"I... I don't know," came the response. Natalie couldn't help but empathize with the conflicted sadness and affection that permeated Jon's words. "Detective Franklin Harley used to be the best of us. A true role model. Now? Now he's a ghost story, a cautionary tale for incoming recruits." Natalie turned to Jon, her eyes taking in the pain that plagued his face. 

"I feel like," Jon began, "I feel like I owe it to him to keep coming here, to visit him while everyone else reviles him. He's the reason I joined, you know? He took me under his wing when I first joined the force. Taught me what it was to be a good cop. I'll never understand how that man—a great, kind man—could kill his own wife. Natalie took her husband's hand in hers and pulled him close. 

"I love you, Jon," she said, seeking to comfort and assuage her partner's pain. "I love you, and I appreciate you bringing me to see him. I know this is...complicated for you, but I want you to know that I am here for you, always." 

Pulling her into his embrace, Jon looked down at the woman in his arms and kissed her. "Thank you, babe. Thank you." Taking a deep breath, Jon let Natalie go. With one more calming breath to steady himself, he turned his attention back to Detective Harley. 

The man sat motionless save for the moment or two when his mouth would twist and open as if he were making to shout. Now and again, his eyes would skip around the room nervously before refocusing obsessively on the mirror before him. Taking Natalie's hand in his own, Jon picked up their visitor badges with his free hand and then turned towards the door. Glancing back toward his former friend, Jon noticed Harley's eyes were now staring intensely into his own through the mirror's reflection. Feeling a chill run down his spine, Jon turned away, tightened his hold on Natalie, and walked through the exit door as a psych aid moved to escort Harley back to his ward.

November 20, 2023 20:29

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3 comments

Dita Dow
23:24 Nov 29, 2023

Hi Nic, Really enjoyed your story. Here are my thoughts: The story successfully creates a tense and suspenseful atmosphere, drawing the reader into the detective’s unsettling experience. Using mirrors and the repeated maze-like structure of the hallways adds layers of intrigue. Detective Harley’s emotional journey is well-crafted. The intense desperation, anger, and sorrow he experiences are vividly portrayed, making him a compelling character. The revelation of his wife’s fate adds a poignant layer to his struggle. The story maintains a...

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Nic Azad
02:33 Nov 30, 2023

Dita, Thank you so incredibly much for your thoughtful feedback! Truly! I appreciated how you lead off by noting what went well, then tied in the way certain elements could have been enhanced. Your notes make total sense and are things I will keep in mind for future pieces. Thanks again for taking the time to read and respond. Cheers, Nic

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Dita Dow
13:02 Nov 30, 2023

It was a wonderful story. I look forward to reading more of your stories. Dita

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