I’d followed him here to a rundown flop house in the South Side of Chicago. I don’t think I have to tell you, this is not the place I’d like to be after dark. Then again the life of a private detective is never done. At least my protégé, Malcolm, was with me.
The tenement was just what you’d expect. It was filthy, both of bodily fluid and dirt. Stains covered the walls and strange ochre blotches littered the staircase. We ascended to what I hoped was an easy snatch and grab arrest.
We were after Dr. Jack Griffin. A man once reported missing, but recently showed his face…well I guess I can’t say that, now can I? He appeared, but his skin was covered in heavy duty bandages. He announced himself as he robbed the bank. Told everyone he was the illustrious Dr. Jack Griffin.
The guards chased him to the alleyway, but all they found was a trench coat, some shoes and socks, and a large swath of Ace bandages.
So how do I know it was Dr. Griffin, you ask? I took finger prints. It was a slam dunk match. I followed the trail here. Through the years, I’ve found it’s better to sneak up on your prey, so I decided to come at night. I regret that decision.
“Keep your eyes peeled. If you have to shoot, aim for the legs,” I told Malcolm. I made sure my voice was lower than the creaks of the staircase. No point in announcing our visit.
He nodded in response. Good lad, keeping quiet.
We reached the room in question. The door was ajar, so I held my hand out, indicating Malcolm should wait outside. Be prepared in case Griffin tried to escape by way of the stairs.
The room was a sight of horrors. I dared not engage the lamp, because what I saw was enough. It wasn’t a living space, but a laboratory. There were cages lining the walls with dead rotting creatures, and the ones who were alive were so emaciated they might as well be dead. Rats, dogs, rabbits, pigs, you name it. The smell was unbearable.
I slowly pressed the hammer back on my .38 special, wincing as it clicked into place. I moved through the room past lab equipment and what I can only describe as an autopsy table – mid procedure. I could swear that the temperature in this room was far cooler than it was in the hallway, but there was a notable absence of the monotonous drone of fans.
I observed a door with light emanating from behind it. I creeped over to it, pausing only once when the floorboards creaked beneath me. I was sweating profusely despite the cool temperature, the moisture ran down my forehead as I reached for the door handle to this door. I gripped it tightly and took a deep, silent breath.
The door was ripped from my hands and swinging open, revealing a stark bedroom. It had a single bed, upon which was the score from the bank. I lifted my pistol, bracing it with my off hand, and swung it around the room. I was sure Griffin opened the door and I was also sure he knew I was here.
But the room held nothing but the bed and the cash.
I took a few steps in, my arms rigid, holding the gun aloft. I bent at my waist and leading with the gun, peered beneath the bed. Nothing. I stood and looked back into the laboratory and saw what I could only describe as a figure running through the room.
“Griffin! Show yourself!” I yelled. Sneaking was useless. He knew we were there.
I somehow lost him in the room and I was suddenly overcome with horrid nausea. How could anyone live like this?
“Get ready to die,” a voice whispered in my ear. I could feel hot breath on my skin and I broke out in gooseflesh.
I spun around, nearly firing my gun. There was nothing. I must have imagined it.
“Fool,” That hot whisper assaulted my other ear.
I twisted again, this time firing. The bullet went through the wall out into the Chicago air.
The door to the hallway burst open and I caught a glimpse of Malcolm as his expression turned to surprised horror. I can’t explain what happened, but it look like he was pulled back, as though he were a vaudevillian actor being pulled off the stage by a hook. Although, there was no backstage for Malcolm. He went tumbling backwards down the staircase. I heard him scream then I heard a crunch followed by silence. I still could see nothing.
“Show yourself you coward!” I screamed.
Laughter echoed through the room. I feel that he was there with me and I have no idea how he was able to knock Malcolm down the stairs without me seeing.
“I must continue my research.”
The whisper was directly behind me. I felt his fingernails slide through my hair.
I twisted, flailing blindly with my fists. More laughter to my right.
“I thought I was curing cancer.”
He bit my ear lobe. I screamed and pulled away. I felt violated. Something as intimate as a bite. How had he gotten so close?
“But this is something so much more.”
I felt a punch in my stomach.
“So I must continue my research.”
I looked down. It was not a punch. It was a knife. I felt a hand cradle me but saw nothing. I watched as it unlevered itself from my stomach and slammed home again and again into my torso. The knife was moving of its own volition. How was this possible?
“By any means necessary.”
I could see blood spill down the handle of the blade. It covered what looked like a hand. A towel flew up from the table next to my body, as my sight began fading to black. It wiped the hand, and as the blood soaked the towel, the mystery hand it was wiping evaporated. It was the last thing I saw.