Shadows in the Night
by Thomas Grant Bruso
GENRE: Paranormal, romance, thriller, horror
Sequel to Past Sins
Jack Ballinger has seen a lot of horrible things in the six years he’s been a police officer, disturbing images he wishes he could erase from his memory forever. Crime scenes, dead bodies, and the death of his parents dredge up an unsettling time from his past, a tortured childhood he does not want to revisit. But Jack must confront a new waking nightmare that sends him spiraling out of control, down a rabbit hole of indescribable terrors, questioning his existence as a human being, cop, and partner.
Struggling with budget cuts and constantly changing policies within the police department, a cantankerous new police chief, eccentric colleagues, and his on-again/off-again relationship with his boyfriend Steve, Jack must confront an evil entity from a previous life. Grappling with old demons is just the beginning. How long will Jack keep running from the horrors of his past and finally face his fears?
When I step out into the bedroom, dripping water from the shower, I freeze, my heartbeat pulses at the sight of the bedroom door cracked open. “Hello?”
Between the balcony doors and the east-side windows, the far corner of the room is empty.
No ghosts or visitors. There is nowhere to hide in this wide-open space.
I walk over to the nightstand where I keep my pistol. I look over my shoulder at the clamoring noise of the construction crew setting up their monstrous machines out on the street. Large yellow Cat loaders and pavers growl to life.
I leave a puddle of water behind me when I reach the dresser and pull out my gun. A noise out in the hallway draws my attention to the open door. I unlock the safety and aim the pistol at my side. I amble to the apartment door, my pulse quickening. I must have forgotten to lock it after Steve left last night, I think.
I stare around the small kitchen: nothing, nobody, but a scattering of spilled coffee beans on the floor. Lifting the gun out in front of me, I walk to the door. A stale, warm, musty smell wafts into the room. I stare out into the dark hallway.
My grip tightens on the gun.
My skin bristles in the cool, clammy air.
I raise my gun and step out into the hall, pointing the pistol left, then right, down the long corridor. Vacant. I take a deep breath and lean against the doorframe.
The stairwell door creaks open at the end of the hall. I straighten my shoulders, pointing the pistol into the dark.
The door opens again, its hinges groaning.
I turn to glance behind me in the dark at the two other apartments.
I stay on the left side of the hall in case somebody is in the stairwell.
I meander down the corridor, moving slowly and turning once to check over my shoulder. I hear noises in the dark, but I don’t see anything. The building settles and shifts in the wind. Forcing myself to keep moving, I slink against the length of the wall to the last door on the floor.
I stop. Wait. Listen.
Machinery clangs outside, and the construction workers’ voices echo like trapped spirits in the apartment walls. I clench the gun’s handle and my index finger grazes the trigger.
The exit door swings open, and clangs shut. I jump back a few inches. Stare at the door. Shuffle forward, yell out, “Hello?” and wedge my foot between the doorjamb. I fling the door open with my hand.
The stairwell is empty. I walk onto the top landing and point the gun behind the door. Clear.
I stare over the edge of the staircase, three stories down. Sunlight streams into the open space below from one of the stairwell doors. I hear muffled voices, people talking, the noise of machinery reverberating off the walls and drifting up the stairwells.
I am overreacting, I tell myself, and letting out a deep sigh. I yell down the stairs for somebody to close the door. No response.
I head back into the hallway, muttering obscenities at myself for acting foolish. When I am back inside my apartment, I lock the door. Before I pour coffee, I retrace my steps across the entire 400-square inch area, checking locks and windows, looking behind doors.
I lock the balcony doors, drawing curtains and drowning out the jackhammering sounds coming from outside. As I close the left-sided drapes, something on the balcony catches my eye and sends me into another dizzying tailspin.
Fear settles in my chest like angry bees buzzing. My heart races. My nightmares return at the sight of partial muddy footprints leading over the edge of the balcony.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Thomas Grant Bruso knew at an early age he wanted to be a writer. He has been a voracious reader of genre fiction since he was a kid.
His literary inspirations are Ray Bradbury, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Ellen Hart, Jim Grimsley, Karin Fossum, Joyce Carol Oates, and John Connolly.
Bruso loves animals, book-reading, writing fiction, prefers Sudoku to crossword puzzles.
In another life, he was a freelance writer and wrote for magazines and newspapers. In college, he was a winner for the Hermon H. Doh Sonnet Competition. Now, he writes and publishes fiction, and reviews books for his hometown newspaper, The Press Republican.
He lives in upstate New York.
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