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Authors: Ed Gorman

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Out There in the Darkness

BOOK: Out There in the Darkness
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OUT THERE IN THE DARKNESS
 

By Ed Gorman

 

 

Digital Edition published by Crossroad Press

© 2012 Ed Gorman

 

Copy-edited by: Cover Design By: David Dodd

LICENSE NOTES
 

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.
 
This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.
 
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Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

OTHER CROSSROAD PRESS PRODUCTS BY
ED GORMAN
 

Novels:

 

Nightmare Child

Serpent's Kiss

Shadow Games

Showdown

 

Robert Payne Series

 

Blood Moon

Hawk Moon

Voodoo Moon

Harlot's Moon

 

Sam McCain Series

 

The Day the Music Died

 

The Thomas Dwyer Series:

 

Murder in the Wings

The Autumn Dead

A Cry of Shadows

 

Novellas:

 

The End of It All

Survival

Cast in Dark Waters (with Tom Piccirilli)

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Chapter 1
 

T
he night it all started, the whole strange spiral, we were having our usual midweek poker game—four fortyish men who work in the financial business getting together for beer and bawdy jokes and straight poker.
 
No wild card games.
 
We hate them.

This was summer, and vacation time, and so it happened that the game was held two weeks in a row at my house.
 
Jan had taken the kids to see her Aunt Wendy and Uncle Verne at their fishing cabin, and so I offered to have the game at my house this week, too.
 
With nobody there to supervise, the beer could be laced with a little bourbon, and the jokes could get even bawdier.
 
With the wife and kids in the house, you're always at least a little bit intimidated.

Mike and Bob came together, bearing gifts, which in this case meant the kind of sexy magazines our wives did not want in the house in case the kids might stumble across them.
 
At least that's what they say.
 
I think they sense, and rightly, that the magazines might give their spouses bad ideas about taking the secretary out for a few after-work drinks, or stopping by a singles bar some night.

We got the chips and cards set up at the table, we got the first beers open (Mike chasing a shot of bourbon with his beer), and we started passing the dirty magazines around with tenth-grade glee.
 
The magazines compensated, I suppose, for the balding head, the bloating belly, the stooping shoulders.
 
Deep in the heart of every hundred-year-old man is a horny fourteen-year-old boy.

All this, by the way, took place up in the attic.
 
The four of us got to know each other when we all moved into what city planners called a “transitional neighborhood.”
 
There were some grand old houses that could be renovated with enough money and real care.
 
The city designated a ten-square-block area as one it wanted to restore to shiny new luster.
 
Jan and I chose a crumbling Victorian.
 
You wouldn't recognize it today.
 
And that includes the attic, which I've turned into a very nice den.

“Pisses me off,” Mike O'Brien said.
 
“He's always late.”

And that was true.
 
Neil Solomon
was
always late.
 
Never by that much but always late nonetheless.

“At least tonight he has a good excuse,” Bob Genter said.

“He does?”
 
Mike said.
 
“He's probably swimming in his pool.”
 
Neil recently got a bonus that made him the first owner of a full-size outdoor pool in our neighborhood.

“No, he's got Patrol.
 
But he's stopping at nine.
 
He's got somebody trading with him for next week.”

“Oh, hell,” Mike said, obviously sorry that he'd complained.
 
“I didn't know that.”

Bob Genter's handsome black head nodded solemnly.

Patrol is something we all take very seriously in this newly restored “transitional neighborhood.”
 
Eight months ago, the burglaries started, and they'd gotten pretty bad.
 
My house had been burglarized once and vandalized once.
 
Bob and Mike had had curb-sitting cars stolen.
 
Neil's wife, Sheila, was surprised in her own kitchen by a burglar. And then there was the killing four months ago, man and wife who'd just moved into the neighborhood, savagely stabbed to death in their own bed.
 
The police caught the guy a few days later trying to cash some of the traveler's checks he'd stolen after killing his prey.
 
He was typical of the kind of man who infested this neighborhood after sundown: a twentyish junkie stoned to the point of psychosis on various street drugs, and not at all averse to murdering people he envied and despised.
 
He also knew a whole hell of a lot about fooling burglar alarms.

After the murders there was a neighborhood meeting and that's when we came up with the Patrol, something somebody'd read about being popular back East.
 
People think that a nice middle-sized Midwestern city like ours doesn't have major crime problems.
 
I invite them to walk many of these streets after dark.
 
They'll quickly be disabused of that notion.
 
Anyway, the Patrol worked this way: each night, two neighborhood people got in the family van and patrolled the ten-block area that had been restored.
 
If they saw anything suspicious, they used their cellular phones and called the police.
 
We jokingly called it the Baby Boomer Brigade.
 
The Patrol had one strict rule: you were never to take direct action unless somebody's life was at stake.
 
Always, always use the cellular phone and call the police.

Neil had Patrol tonight.
 
He'd be rolling in here in another half hour.
 
The Patrol had two shifts: early, 8:00-10:00; late, 10:00-12:00.

Bob said, “You hear what Evans suggested?”

“About guns?” I said.

“Yeah.”

“Makes me a little nervous,” I said.

“Me, too,” Bob said.
 
For somebody who'd grown up in the worst area of the city, Bob Genter was a very polished guy.
 
Whenever he joked that he was the token black, Neil always countered with the fact that he was the token Jew, just as Mike was the token Catholic, and I was the token Methodist.
 
We were friends of convenience, I suppose, but we all really did like each other, something that was demonstrated when Neil had a cancer scare a few years back.
 
Bob, Mike and I were in his hospital room twice a day, all eight days running.

“I think it's time,” Mike said.
 
“The bad guys have guns, so the good guys should have guns.”

“The good guys are the cops,” I said.
 
“Not us.”

“People start bringing guns on Patrol,” Bob said, “somebody innocent is going to get shot.”

“So some night one of us here is on Patrol and we see a bad guy and he sees us and before the cops get there, the bad guy shoots us?
 
You don't think that's going to happen?”

“It
could
happen, Mike,” I said.
 
“But I just don't think that justifies carrying guns.”

The argument gave us something to do while we waited for Neil.

 

“S
orry I'm late,” Neil Solomon said after he followed me up to the attic and came inside.

“We already drank all the beer,” Mike O'Brien said loudly.

Neil smiled.
 
“That gut you're carrying lately, I can believe that
you
drank all the beer.”

Mike always enjoyed being put down by Neil, possibly because most people were a bit intimidated by him—he had that angry Irish edge—and he seemed to enjoy Neil's skilled and fearless handling of him.
 
He laughed with real pleasure.

Neil sat down, I got him a beer from the tiny fridge I keep up here, cards were dealt, seven card stud was played.

Bob said, “How'd Patrol go tonight?”

Neil shrugged.
 
“No problems.”

“I still say we should carry guns,” Mike said.

“You're not going to believe this but I agree with you,” Neil said.

“Seriously?” Mike said.

“Oh, great,” I said to Bob Genter, “another beer-commercial cowboy.”

Bob smiled.
 
“Where I come from we didn't have cowboys, we had ‘muthas.'”
 
He laughed.
 
“Mean muthas, let me tell you.
 
And practically
all
of them carried guns.”

“That mean you're siding with them?” I said.

Bob looked at his cards again then shrugged.
 
“Haven't decided yet, I guess.”

I didn't think the antigun people were going to lose this round.
 
But I worried about the round after it, a few months down the line when the subject of carrying guns came up again.
 
All the TV coverage violence gets in this city, people are more and more developing a siege mentality.

“Play cards,” Mike said, “and leave the debate society crap till later.”

Good idea.

We played cards.

In forty-five minutes, I lost $63.82.
 
Mike and Neil always played as if their lives were at stake.
 
All you had to do was watch their faces.
 
Gunfighters couldn't have looked more serious or determined.

The first pit stop came just after ten o'clock and Neil took it.
 
There was a john on the second floor between the bedrooms, and another john on the first floor.

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