Read Shudder Online

Authors: Harry F. Kane

Tags: #futuristic, #dark, #thriller, #bodies, #girls, #city, #seasonal, #killer, #murder, #criminals, #biosphere, #crimes, #detective, #Shudder, #Harry Kane, #Damnation Books, #sexual, #horror

Shudder

Shudder
By
Harry F. Kane

Damnation Books, LLC.
P.O. Box 3931
Santa Rosa, CA 95402-9998

www.damnationbooks.com

Shudder
by Harry F. Kane

Digital ISBN: 978-1-61572-696-7

Print ISBN: 978-1-61572-697-4

Cover art by: Ash Arceneaux
Edited by: Kim Richards and Alison O'Byrne

Copyright 2012 Harry F. Kane

Printed in the United States of America
Worldwide Electronic & Digital Rights
1st North American, Australian and UK Print Rights

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any form, including digital and electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the Publisher, except for brief quotes for use in reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

To my lovely wife for her patience and support.

Four people read the drafts of this book and laughed and cried and cringed and motivated me to go to the end. Two are internet entities: Empress of The Universe and CarbonCore, the third—wild dude Anthony Miler, the fourth—wonderful book blogger and author Bonnie Sparks

Prologue

The city shuddered, the city groaned, the city fed.

The city defecated, the city leaked.

Steel and cement honeycombs housed squishy little creatures.

They, too, shuddered, groaned and fed.

They, too, defecated and they too leaked.

The city moaned, the city slept, the city dreamt.

Its dreams of lust, of violence, and of manic glee sped back and forth along its nervous system, flaring up on thousands of screens, reflecting in thousands of eyes, burrowing into billions of neurons.

Its veins hummed with electricity.

Its arteries choked with refuse.

Worms writhed under its skin, rats scurried in its deepest cavities, its troubled breath sent shreds of rubbish swirling, its moisten gaze blurred crimson rear lights and faces.

Back before the sun had sunk into the skyline, Trisha Cormac lay on the cold floor of a gigantic basement.

A cavern of shadows and of fear.

Lying in the shadows Trisha shivered. Shivering was the freedom she was granted.

Hands cuffed, legs tied, eyes wide, she watched the men approach. She knew then that for her…

No…no…let me go…let me…gh.

Exhaling.

Now smelling of chlorine, hands by her side, naked, dead, exhaled.

Like every year.

Like every season.

A broken doll, a mirror smashed.

It happened hours ago.

Now was night.

The city shuddered in its sleep.

Part One
Chapter One

The sounds seeping through the slight opening of the bedroom window were gradually becoming more urgent. The general morning babble intensified and at times bursts of individual voices rose above the rest.

The deep ramble of heavier vehicles entering the traffic became more regular and added itself to the buzz and hum of thousands of automobiles. Sounds of irate honking grew quickly from isolated incidents into a regular addition to the mélange of the morning.

The city had awakened.

Dave stirred beneath the blankets without opening his eyes too wide. It was at exactly such moments—when the autumn air grew agitated by the growing stream of the city's inhabitants and entered the room in little fresh waves, when the gray light filtered through the semi-transparent curtains so soothingly—that he felt he could sleep though the whole day. That it was indeed his duty to himself to sleep through the whole day.

This eternal tragedy of the working man.

He was in possession of the inner strength, the grit, to resist the impulse to wake when hammers begin pounding in the neighbor's above at eight in the morning, or when the far and near drills start whining away.

No problem. He could just incorporate the new sounds into his lazy dreaming.

He could also overcome with ease the voices and medleys pouring from TV sets, radios, and computers coming to life one by one; the children galloping over parquet floors; the adult high heels forging resonating annoyance from tile and parquet.

Unlike some people, Dave found these morning sounds quite trivial adversaries. Far from getting in the way of relaxation, they were more like an additional layer of comfort, signifying deep down that everything was still okay—that there was no cause for alarm.

But there was cause for alarm.

The shrill ringing of his cell phone's alarm clock.

No matter what melody he chose to wake him, he never managed to quite come to grips with having to get out of bed in spite of his inclinations, and do so with a smile on his face.

It was a good thing he was a lone bachelor. Otherwise, among other things, he would have been obliged to try to mask his morning scowl.

Predictably, he decided to sugarcoat the obligations of the day by a lazy motivation fondle. As his hand journeyed slowly downwards below the blanket, an urgent buzz at the front door wrapped up his illusion of control over even this prologue to the day.

With an inarticulate oath, he squirmed out from under his blanket and onto the floor.

It was not a warm floor. For some reason, the landlord thought tiles were a good idea for the bedroom. Certainly not the type of morning floor that tells the feet and toes: “Relax, little buddies. Wriggle happily; stay here all day if you want to.” Rather, the message was: “I hate you. I hate you. I hate you. That's right, curl up and stiffen or I'll get you good.”

Dave always forgot to get himself some sort of rug.

He slid his feet into worn slippers. As he straightened up the door buzzer buzzed again, with urgent knocks added to amplify the message.

Dave cleared his throat and bellowed, “I'll be there in a minute. Don't break the door or I'll break your face.”

He knew that only the general gist of someone reacting to the knocks was audible to the unexpected guest, but it felt good to shout something threatening—to reassert control in a way.

He put on his pseudo-khaki pants, made sure that his old Walther was in the right-hand pocket where it should be, checked if his ID was in the back pocket—it was. As he pulled yesterday's T-shirt on, the buzzer buzzed for a third time, with more knocks and thumps rattling the door.

Dave exhaled through his nostrils with serious irritation this time. He strode over to the door with tense purposefulness, without switching on the small monitor to see who bothered him, he directly turned the two locks, pulled the latch, and swung the door open. Eyes set in an angry squint, he was ready to shout— and punch—should the need arise.

Uniformed men glared back with equally determined expressions.

The police.

The Captain, Faraday, opened his mouth, then his eyes made contact with his brain, and he closed his mouth. Then he grunted and opened it again. “It's you,” he said blinking as he tried to unwind and adapt to another mode of conversation. “Cohran, right? I
thought
I knew this place from somewhere.”

He was a burly brunette, close to forty, and although no special quality showed in his expression or demeanor, Faraday had the air of a reasonably decent fellow.

At the sound of his voice, the other three officers relaxed visibly. Hands stopped hovering over holsters and went to more peaceful purposes, like hanging loosely or curling up in pockets.

A man with a black mustache flicked the switch of his small shoulder cam and the small red dot above its lens went out.

“Yup,” Dave said, also unwound now. “It's me. When was the last time this happened? Two years ago? Three?”

“Well, whatever,” Faraday said. “Must've been another mix-up.” He squared his shoulders and pulled in his gut. “Sorry.”

“Hey, no problem.” Dave yawned forgivingly and scratched his chest.

“Okay, let's go,” Faraday said, turning to the other officers, back in business mode. “The man has authorization—he's an out-sniffer—what was the other address?”

Dave looked at the retreating backs of the policemen for a few seconds. Then he closed the door, went into the kitchen, and rescued it from dusk by pulling up the blinds with a familiar screech.

He struggled for a second with the lid of the instant coffee, before realizing that he was digging his nails into the wrong plastic groove. Then he poured the usual ingredients into his mug: three spoons of coffee, three spoons of sugar.

He reached for the electric kettle and remembered that it was busted. Why hadn't he yet gotten himself a new one? It had been four days now.

He looked at the white impotent kettle, loafing at the edge of the table, inches away from the formerly white fridge.

Perhaps he had to actually throw it away, in order to motivate himself to get a new one.

Perhaps the sight of the kettle standing there fooled him on a certain level that there really wasn't any need to buy a new one.

Dave made his mind up, took the offending appliance, poured the residual water into the sink, and stuffed it, with some effort, into the rubbish bin.

The rubbish bin hadn't been exactly overflowing prior to this act, but had already been putting up token resistance against less flexible new additions to its contents, and now the kettle filled up all the available space, pushing up a few greasy napkins and an oily, empty salami pack.

Dave gave the tap a twist and added water to his coffee mug, producing a murky dark concoction with unevenly colored streaks. The finishing touch into it was a shot of milk and then off into the microwave went the mug.

Dave opened the fridge door and meditated for half a minute, looking at the eggs, the ham, the two shriveled sausages, the lone carrot, the ham again, the eggs again. How old were the eggs? On one hand, he wanted to believe that they were still out of the danger zone, but on the other, he had a distinct lack of recollection of buying any eggs for over a week and a half. With a puff of indecision, he took out the ham.

The microwave stopped making its noises and gave a short ‘ping'. Dave slapped four slices of ham on two pieces of toast, took his coffee, and sat down for a quick breakfast before work.

Captain Faraday had called him an ‘out-sniffer', and indeed, that was his job. When the last wave of cost-cutting fashion in politics and social management had hit the fan, the city police, with the blessing-indeed, the prodding of the Ministry of the Interior—had outsourced everything that had not yet been outsourced.

Now, in the neighborhoods that could afford it, private security guards, ‘in close cooperation with the city police', walked the beat, or rather cruised the beat, and a certain quota of psychologists and surgeons working in city clinics were obliged by law to help the city police for a fixed wage.

Dave made his living within this new system, well, relatively new, slightly over one mandate new, by being an outsourced detective specializing in the prevalently humdrum, but sometimes piercingly depressing sector of sex crimes.

His initial fling at being a private detective was so unproductive and futile, so meaningless and even humiliating, that he had grasped with both hands the chance to sign a long-term contract as an ‘advising detective.'

Hence his authorization to look for any illegal sex sites in the net; hence his detection by police programs as a user of these sites; hence these incidental confusions, when someone had overlooked something while compiling the list for an annual sex offender crackdown.

Why were they doing it now, anyway? Were elections looming again? Politics was one of the topics Dave usually filtered out from the news flow but he
did
remember seeing yesterday workers renovate a derelict fountain in front of a derelict library. Now that he thought of it, there
were
more posters of respectable looking men and women stuck on bus stops and walls of buildings.

He wolfed down his sandwiches as he checked his hypothesis on the computer.
Aha, yes indedee.
National parliamentary elections turned out to be a mere two months away. Dave drained his coffee cup and returned to his bedroom to dress for work, still musing.

With only two months to go before elections, now was the time for all institutions to suddenly spring into highly visible action. Potholes to be filled up, crumbling pavements to be given a makeover, kindergartens to be opened, unlicensed prostitutes to be rounded up for a while. Another generation of college students to suddenly find out too late, that contrary to their experience up to now, the war on drugs laws still hadn't been repealed and did indeed apply to them.

It was time to go to the office. These days, when almost all his business was with the police, he could, in theory, work entirely from home. When he had to make calls, use the web, or print out a report, in short—when he had to do all of the ‘office work'—he could do it without leaving his flat. Still, he had to go to the office and he had to go there on time. The reasons for this were two:

The first reason was prestige. A detective working from his home as a concept in itself would be enough to trigger contempt, disbelief and ridicule from anyone, especially potential clients. In a world in which money and power flow through the grooves of public opinion and image, a well-maintained office in a well-maintained part of town was a basic necessity.

The second reason for needing the office was of equally fundamental importance, although less abstract. The news that he received from his main client–or perhaps ‘employer' would be a more fitting word, i.e. the city police force–was frequently marked ‘classified' and ‘confidential'. He could only access these files sent to him from the IP address of his personalized office computer.

A maintenance firm that also worked closely with the police, checked the office computer on a quarterly basis for added security.

He
could
send them to his own email after some monkeying around with formats and encrypting, but that would be unethical. Not to mention illegal, and a reason for him to lose his employment, should he be found out.

Dave put on his office clothes, which were dark brown jeans and a dark brown turtleneck sweater, slipped into his autumn shoes, put on his jacket, and left his flat.

Of the two lifts, one was working and soon he was inside his down-market BMW and in the nine o'clock traffic.

He flipped on the radio and a faceless rhythm with a loop of pseudo-classical violin riffs palpitated softly inside his car. A sugary, cougary female voice of the currently popular distorted cartoon duck variety sang.

Morose autumn trees and the occasional bus stop lined the boulevard on both sides. Dave's bloodshot eyes evaded concentrating on anything, while his neck and buttocks tried to pick up the rhythm of the music and throb with it.

It wasn't working out very well—the performer's voice was getting in the way.

These days a pop song either has a total of about three sentences repeated over and over, sometimes slowed down, or speeded up, or chopped up into their separate words, vowels and consonants; or the pop song is an endless narrative, with the singer sprouting out ten words a second.

The current hit filling the space around Dave's ears was “Droolah” and although it was a representative of the speedy indecipherable muttering, the high-pitched chorus was plainly audible.

“I'm your droolah,

Ooh-ah,

I am, I am,

I'm a droolah for you,

For me, for you

Ooh-ah,

I am, for you.”

After the chorus appeared the second time around, Dave sighed and changed stations. He couldn't take this type of pop music so early in the day, not with the nature of his work.

He found the news and hit the brakes. Traffic in front of him had slowed down to a crawl. As he too slowly crawled forward, softly playing with the clutch and the gas, he tried to ignore the futile honking of some of the more impatient drivers, and listened absently to the radio.

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