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The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Thriller
- From Our Archives

Barney Whittaker
On. Off. On. Off. The faulty bulbs in the old kitchen threw a menacing strobe across the rusted units and pans hanging from hooks. Morrison put his hand to the dirty wall, felt the cold rushing air of the Swedish mid-winter and crouched silently in the doorway.


He loaded his gun. The lights put him into a stupor; half disorientated, half alert, he waited. Crace’s mud footprints lay before him. They led across the hard cold tiles through the double doors, into the dining hall.

This is it, he thought. Tired of this game. Too many dead. Goddamn lights.

He looked down at his shirt, soaked with sweat, his chest red hot and beating a rhythm that pounded into his senses with primal ferocity. His heart was an engine, his veins were wires. He breathed out slowly.

All those folks in church talkin’ about souls. We’re machines. This blue I wear, this badge, this baton at my side; in the street they hold a meaning beyond flesh and blood. I've got power beyond myself. In here it’s nothing. It’s all nothing. Just mine and his hearts pumpin’ away, driving us.

He stood. For that moment, he was his sweat, his instincts, his fear. That’s all. Just biology. And all the while the lights played with his judgement. He removed his hat and laid it on the floor. Advancing towards the double doors, feet tracing Crace’s footprints, he raised his pistol forward with both hands. He fell back against the wall to the left, gun to his nose, and closed his eyes. He thought of his enemy, waiting beyond the doors. The last nine months of his career, his life, breathing as he was, waiting as he was, clutching a gun as he was.
This one had spirit. More than the others he’d encountered over his years.

Crace’s finger teased the trigger of the weapon at his disposal. On. Off. On. Off. He observed the animated state in which his hands appeared in the flickering lights. He thought of the cop stood in the kitchen, probably looking at his footprints. Probably shaking. He smiled. He didn’t get his name, but he'd been aware of him for months. They made eye contact once, in Brussels. It was rare that men stood and faced Crace with that look in their eyes. Determination. The cop must have been around mid – thirties. Probably got a wife, a growing family. Kids. Waiting for a promotion to get them the house in the country they'd always dreamed of. The quiet life. White picket fence.

The hall slipped in and out of form before Crace at the will of the bulbs like a sinister zoetrope. Scattered furniture. Grand piano. Abandoned. He settled into a crouch in a side doorway, just in sight of the double doors. Steady as a rock, this was sport to him. He could hear faint footsteps in the flickering. A shadow under the doors. The fact that the approaching cop was dead before he even decided to pursue Crace was incidental. The fact that he believed he was pursuing him was humorous, that he would catch him. Crace grinned once more. I've led him.
 This has to end now. Morrison wrestled with his fear. He has brutally killed twenty-three people in the last year and he will continue to tear a hole in the world if you do not act. He started to picture this wife, but then shook the memory with a twitch of his head. Focus. He has evaded you and the police forces of six different countries. Prove yourself.

Go home, see your wife again.

No. What do machines do? They serve a function. Your purpose is to eliminate Crace, and he is in that room. You have chased him around this world and unless you want to be chasing him in the next, it will end here, in Stockholm. He is a monster, but you are a professional.
As Morrison burst forth into the hall, the air rose.

The gunfire tore through the air as the bullets tore through muscle,

through bone,

through ligament.

Two hearts had entered that hall, and only one left it beating.

High above on the roof, doves folded away into the night, disturbed by the shots. The ringing in the rafters of the hall soon faded and it was over.

And still the lights.

On, Off. On, Off.

© Barney Whittaker March 2011

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