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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Death · #2292867
James is tasked with protecting a serial killer but the excuse is a new one for him.
As a public defender, James Whittle defended a wide array of people and heard all the excuses at one point or another. But, this one, it took the cake.

Michael Empton, his defendant, stood accused of torturing and murdering three men in his basement. The balding middle-aged man insisted he didn’t do it… like all of James’ defendents, they always claimed innocence.

James thought of the first meeting of the suspected killer.

Sweat beaded on the man’s forehead and nose as he clasped his handcuffed hands together. His light brown eyes begged for understanding. “You got to believe me, I didn’t do it.”

James nodded his head. “Yes, I understand but the evidence is against you. They have videos…”

“I know what they have.” Michael smashed one of his fists down on the table. “Goddamn it, I know what they have. It told me what it would give them if I didn’t do what it wanted. I just wanted it to stop. I didn’t want to help it anymore.”

“Help what?” he asked.

Michael’s gaze dropped to his hands. When he returned his focus to James, tears brimmed in his eyes. “I don’t know but it used my house as a feeding ground. It used me to dispose of its dirty work. It forced me to help. Maybe it was the devil? A demon? I don’t know but it was evil.”

“The devil? Michael, that sounds,” he said but the accused shook his head.

“I know what it sounds like, okay? I know. But it’s the truth and sometimes, I can still see it, still feel it.” The man’s face twisted with disgust. “It talks to me. Reminds me that no one will believe me.”

James glanced down at his notes, trying to keep the smirk from rising to his lips. “So, our defense is going to be the devil made you do it, huh?”

“No. I don’t think it’s the devil. I think it’s something else. Something,” his words wandered off and he dropped his head into his jingling hands.

As his lawyer, James had recommended the overweight Michael agree to an insanity defense. It was the only feasible option.

James scanned through his notes from the meeting and said out loud to the empty office, “Who even believes in the devil in this day and age anymore? It’s ridiculous.”

Of course, Michael refused to submit an insanity plea.

Placing his papers in his briefcase and straightening his striped tie, James pushed away from his desk and rose. His spine cracked when he stretched. He’d spent hours today, prowling over the evidence in hopes of finding something to plant the seeds of doubt or even give them bartering power with the prosecution.

Nothing leaped out at him. If Michael didn’t want to plead insanity, he didn’t see how they could win the case.

Silence reigned in the dark firm. If he’d been a superstitious man, he might have been freaked out by the shadows. Instead, he maneuvered around the well-known office. He skirted his receptionist’s desk and out the door of his office into the main lobby. Gregory, the night watchman, sat at the security desk and they tilted their chins at each other as he walked by.

“Working another late night, Mr. Whittle?” he asked.

James laughed. “Is there a night I don’t?”

The older gentleman shrugged his shoulders, conceding to James’ point. “Well, at least you’re getting out of here. Have a good night.”

“You too, Gregory. Try not to party too hard,” he said and stepped out of the building.

The perfume of the nearby street’s exhaust fumes and blossoming orange trees swept over him when he stepped out of the building. Although not a pleasant fragrance, it put him at ease. Something about the night always soothed him, invigorating his senses and making him feel as if a weight lifted off his shoulders.

A distant roar of an engine and squeal of tires echoed in the street. His eyes glanced up in time to watch a black Toyota Supra speed past with a bright yellow Honda Civic fast upon its tail. With another heavy screech of tires, they whipped around the corner and disappeared from sight.

He shook his head. Those idiots were going to cause an accident and they’d have no one to blame but themselves. Granted, he might get paid to take their case, but he’d rather not have to deal with anymore murderers for a while.

His polished Oxfords clicked in the hollow quiet as he made his way through the near empty parking garage. The elevator doors tried to woo him.

“Nope, too much pasta,” he said and rubbed his belly. That, and too much time at the office, not enough time at the gym. The option to stay fit was to be creative, which meant taking the stairs instead of the easy way up.

When he climbed the first step past the second deck, something rumbled. He rolled his eyes. The dragsters were obnoxious. Gas and tires didn’t come cheap so how much did they spend to take on multiple rounds about the block?

Except, he incorrectly assumed the source of the sound.

When he pushed open the door to the third level, he froze in horror.

A huge shadow loomed in the corner, appearing to lean against his beautiful Mercedes. The silhouette absorbed the light out of the air and although semi-see through, it also seemed opaque at the same time.

The squeak of the door opening made the figure turn its head. Eerie red eyes met James’ gaze. The movement also allowed him to see what the creature hovered over, a young man with bleached blonde hair; undeniably dead.

James stared at grisly photos of murder victims in order to get paid, but he never dealt with the death directly. It was always from a distance, and he was able to shut his mind off to what he saw.

This was different.

His stomach clenched and he fought the dry heaves racking his body. He would not throw up, he would not lose it in the face of whatever this organism claimed to be.

The shadow sensed his discomfort and shifted so he could observe the corpse in full display. A pool of blood soaked the asphalt beneath him. Entrails streamed from his torn open gut and piled next to him.

James knew even if he paid for all the therapy in the world, he would never get the image of his insides out of his head.

The man’s artificially colored blue eyes stared unseeing into the distance, wide open in terror; a scream forever plastered on his thin lips.

As frightened as James was, something clicked. The dead young man bore an uncanny resemblance to the victims of Michael Empton.

Something in the back of his mind screamed at him to run, to get out of there. But, he couldn’t move. No matter how much he told himself to move, he couldn’t tear his eyes from the tortured young man.

The shadow creature slithered closer, its crimson eyes burning into him. In the bloated silence of the parking garage, James didn’t hear any noise, not even of the demon making its way towards him. He felt even if he somehow managed to scream, the shriek would burst out at zero volume. A wasted effort no one would ever hear.

The creature inched closer. Finally, James heard something.

Dark laughter.

The noise broke him of his trance. He whipped around, his feet tangling in his haste. Fear forced him to recover quickly. He raced down the stairs. Leaping down two to three at a time, he expected shadow claws to snatch him by his neck. The door slammed shut and he cast a hazardous glance over his shoulder.

Nothing pursued him.

He would run back to the firm, tell Gregory about the murdered man by his car, and to call the police! Fixated on his goals, he didn’t see what waited for him at the bottom of the stairs.

The creature, more substantial than any shadow he encountered before, yanked him up by his shoulders and slammed him into the cement stairs. Though it didn’t appear to have any mouth to emit foul breath, the odor of something horrible wafted over James anyways when it spoke.

“Mmmmm, he was right. You are a better option,” it purred.

The voice echoed inside of James’ head. Hot liquid soaked his pants when his bladder released. He closed his eyes, praying the nightmare would end. His fear burned so great he couldn’t even plead for his life.

The pressure on his shoulders released and he opened his eyes, hoping the monstrosity was gone.

It wasn’t.

It leaned against the banister, studying him. James got the distinct impression smiled, even though he couldn’t see anything to indicate the expression.

“What do you want?” he asked, holding his briefcase to his chest like a security blanket.

The creature chuckled, making James’s skin crawl. Mentally, he kicked himself for trying to be healthy and taking the stairwell. The stairwell didn’t have any cameras but the elevator did. Gregory might have observed his pursuer and taken appropriate action. Here in the stairwell, he was on his own.

“The cameras never see me,” the thing said in an amused tone. “They always malfunction. Always, or see a different face.”

He understood the monster could read his mind. Somehow, it seemed expected. He swallowed the dry lump of fear in the back of his throat, and asked, “Whose face do they see?”

“My companions.”

The two words caused a sinking feeling to descend in the pit of James’s stomach. He didn’t want to ask the next question, but he felt compelled, “Your companions? And, who are your companions?”

“You know my last one. He didn’t want to help me, but I can be powerfully persuasive.” The creature’s red eyes glinted with an unnatural hunger. “My next companion needs to move the body. The last thing he wants is for the footage to be reviewed. My companion’s face might just be seen committing the murder.”

“I’m not your companion. I’m calling the police,” James stated.

“Go ahead, Companion. But I don’t lie. They will see what you have done. You will pay the price, just like Michael Empton shall.” The demon laughed.

James’ temporary courage leached away. “But Gregory saw me. He spoke with me. He’ll testify that I couldn’t have killed that man!”

The confident chuckles rattled around in his brain. “You don’t think that the times can be tampered with? Really? I’d hurry up and move that corpse. We both know Gregory goes on his patrol soon and the last thing you want him to find is his body next to your car.”

James suddenly rolled over and vomited over the side of the stairwell. The demon sniggered again. Less than ten minutes of dealing with this thing and he already hated the irritating, rasping sound. Maybe he fell asleep at his desk and would wake up any moment.

“Nope and your time is dwindling.”

Gregory perched at his security desk, keeping an eye on the monitors for anything out of place. He watched Mr. Whittle fiddling with his tie, tossing it in the front seat along with his briefcase and jacket. The dark-haired lawyer glanced up at the camera and waved, before he slipped into his front seat. Gregory’s eyes narrowed. Something must be wrong with the camera. For a brief moment, a dark shadow shadow seemed to swallow the air around James.

Unknown to him, the camera captured and yet missed much more than he would ever see.

It missed James struggling with a ravaged body, soaking his jacket in thick, sticky blood. It missed him rolling the poor man awkwardly into his trunk, folding his black chipped nail polished fingers over each other in an attempt to pay him some respect. And, it missed the absolute terror in his eyes as his new “companion” explained that this was only the beginning of a long, fun relationship.

Cameras miss so much sometimes.
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