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The Dark Corner - Easton Livingston

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by Easton Livingston

© Copyright 2018

Published by JMD Publishing

First Edition

Introduction

Welcome. My name is Easton Livingston. By picking up this book, you have gained access through one of the many entry points into The Tapestry.

The specific place you have entered is called The Dark Corner, a series of short stories, novelettes, and novellas meant to introduce potential citizens to what I have affectionately called the R.I.U. (Reality Imagination Universe). They were all released as separate stories but the miniseries has been combined for the first time into one collection that can be read through in its entirety.

This collection is different because the stories are linked. Think of each one as an episode in a wider story. Though the stories may be different in and of themselves, there is a connection running through each. It builds as you get deeper into the book. 

The five storiesinclude: #1 -The Visitor, #2 -The Forest, #3 - The Gift, #4 - The Basement, and #5 - The Confrontation.

Before you enter, I want to invite you to become an R.I.U. Citizen. R.I.U. Citizens will be alerted when my books will available for free. They also get exclusive access to the Veiled Athenaeum. This is content of the stories behind the stories. So, if you're not a part of the R.I.U. community, just tap the link below to become an R.I.U. Citizen:

Sign Up as an RIU Citizen. Tap This Link

I applaud you. The shadowy labyrinth of The Dark Corner can be difficult to traverse and hard to navigate. Discernment is a key attribute. Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to scare you. I'm…informing you.

The door is open. You may enter.

The Visitor 

Part I - I'm Not Alone Here

He didn't know how long he was sitting there in the shadows. His knees were numb from sitting in the same position for... well... he really didn't know how long. It took a few minutes to clear the cobwebs from the crevices in his mind. Something was going on. He must have dozed off or something. The dark outline of the La-Z-Boy was all he could see in front of his face a foot away as he attempted to get his bearings. Then, he remembered.

He was there.

The thought caused his heart to race, trepidation constricting the muscles in his stomach. His ears were in an instant at full attention, listening for a creak in the floor, a shuffle of feet over the carpet.

He was there.

Dana didn't know why that was the first thing that came into his mind. He knew it was true. The intruder was following him and had been for too long. How he had gotten into the house in the first place was a mystery and unnerving. 

It was not the first time Dana had an awareness of his presence. He'd seen him before. More than once. The first time was about six months prior. Dana was leaving the apartment and had that feeling of being watched, a palpable presence just on the periphery of his senses. When he turned around to face who it was, they weren't there. After that, the encounters increased. At work. At the store. While out to eat with his wife which was the first time Dana had heard his voice. Clear. Distinct. Each encounter brought him into closer contact which left him timorous, a feeling he was sure was the point of the tactic.

Tonight it all had come to a head. As Dana was leaving the apartment in a hurry, he bumped into someone going through the glass doors. He took two steps and froze. It was him. He knew it.

He spoke four words.

I'm coming for you.

He rushed down the sidewalk, intent on not looking back. He wanted to turn around, wanted to face him. But he couldn't. So he kept moving, those four words ringing in his head over and over on the drive home.

He stood up, his legs weak and wobbling, invisible needles pricking his nerves as they came back to life. Bracing his back against the wall for support, he ventured a cautious peek over the back edge of the lounge chair. The living room, done in its posh, Victorian style, was empty. The only sound he heard was the furnace kicking in again which interfered with him being able to discern anything if it was there.

He felt trapped. Trapped in his own house which frightened as well as incensed him. Dana had done nothing to this man, nothing whatsoever though he had a vague sense he knew him. Maybe at the grocery store or the factory. Old employee? He couldn't pin it down. It didn't matter now. What mattered was he was threatening him in his own house. He had to figure out what to do.

Dana stood against the wall for a few moments as he tried to formulate a plan. He could leave the house and flee somewhere the man could not find him but he rejected that idea almost as quick as it entered his head. What was he going to tell the police? He'd never seen the man before so he couldn't give them a description. He didn't have a name, address, or what car he drove. Though he didn't know these details, something bothered him. There was something in the back of his mind like a splinter agitating his memories as if he knew but whatever knowledge he possessed was being suppressed. Plus, he had a feeling the man would find him no matter where he went. He had so far. That kind of relentless pursuit dies hard.

Embers of anger burgeoned, mix with fear at the realization that this intruder was invading the privacy of his own home. His home. The old saying was true. A man's home was his castle, and he wasn't about to let this man ruin everything he'd worked for. Yes. There were detractors, those that believed how he had gotten those things was suspect. Not in an illegal sense but in an ethical one. They could cry all they wanted. You can't be the top businessman in a region without crossing a few lines, bending a few rules. That was how the game was played, regardless of the moralists who wanted to sit in their sanctimonious thrones on the outside looking in. Haters are gonna hate. All a part of the game. He had no qualms or crisis of conscience about it. It's what it took to be the best. The best dressed. Best haircut. Best car. People admired him though most of them didn't want to admit it. Some called it arrogance. Conceit. Dana called it assurance. He was good at what he did. People could complain and salivate all they wanted. He knew who he was.

A flash of realization invaded his mind juxtaposed on the caboose of the train of thought which exited his psyche. This intruder was a rival agent hired by a competitor. Someone he had crossed paths with in business. Someone he had offended or got over on. Who? That was a long list. 

It didn't matter. Now that he understood what was going on, he decided what he needed to do. He refused to be hunted down in his own house. He was Dana Johansen. Six-figure income Dana Johansen. Jaguar XJ in the garage Dana Johansen. Wife, kids, and a cottage in Pennsylvania Dana Johansen. Half a million dollar house Dana Johansen. If the intruder wanted to be so audacious and stupid as to invade his domain, fine. He had something for him.

He took a step away from the back of the chair, testing his legs for sturdiness. They faltered but strengthened with each cautious step as he moved across the living room, ears pumping with adrenaline, sensitive to the slightest noise.

Bong! Bong!

He spun around, eyes wide and alert but sighed in relief at the sound of his grandfather clock's resonant chime. Closing his eyes, he calmed himself.

Pull it together Dana. This is your refuge. Your home.

Dana took deep breaths until he felt he was under control and his heart rate had decreased. He needed to get upstairs where he kept his Taurus 85 Ultra- Lite 38 Special. something he'd bought on a recommendation. A friend on the police force. Friend? More like an acquaintance. There were few people he called friend. Pete was a definite one. He couldn't think if there was anyone else.

Him and Debbie had talked about having a gun, or rather had argued about it, on several occasions. She hadn't wanted a gun in the house because of the kids. That was the excuse she gave. The fact of the matter is that she didn't like guns. They made her nervous and scared. Dana's argument was he didn't like her and the kids by themselves while he was away on business with nothing to protect them. After weeks of debating, they decided that they would keep the gun locked away in a small safety box. Only him and Debbie would have the key and the combo.

Reaching inside his pocket, he checked to see if he had his keys and he did. Relief washed over him. He thought he left them hanging next to the back door, his normal location for them. But nothing about tonight was normal.

He walked to the far left side of the living room archway and peered around the corner down the small hallway that led to the kitchen. The light over the stove seemed to flood the whole area with its luminance. He knew it only appeared that way because of the darkness attaching itself to everything in the house. 

The furnace clicked off. He paused. No movement. No footsteps. That meant nothing. The intruder could have been mirroring what he was doing, listening for some sign of where his prey might be.

He needed to get upstairs.

The light, black soles of his penny loafers came down onto the high polished oak floor of the foyer.

Creak.

Dana turned his head to position his ears toward the sound. Every muscle in his body congealed.

Creak.

The intruder was in the dining room and sounded close.

Leaping to the stairway in front of him, he bounded up to his room, taking three to four steps with each stride. Pausing at the landing, he heard what he feared would come.

Pursuit.

The last set of stairs he took two at a time as he sprinted straight to his bedroom closet, sweat effusing from his pores in minute beads. It was open which meant he wouldn't have to make any noise to alert the intruder to his whereabouts. Someone in heaven liked him tonight.

Furtive, hasty movements took him to the back of the closet. He settled behind a deluge of suits, shirts, and coats he hadn't worn in God knows how long but was reluctant to get rid of. Four hangers swayed and hit each ether, their sound filling the silence like an explosion. He clasped his hands around them in a quick fit of desperation, intense irritation on his face. His heart thumped in his head and it was hard to hear anything through its incessant beating. Plastering himself against the back wall of the closet in the darkness, he crouched, waiting.

His stomach churned, bowels somersaulting. He felt something on his cheek and wiped it off. The stress was getting to him as tears trickled down his face.

Wait . . . Dana. Are you crying?! Seriously?! This is your house man. This is not a time to cry! What is wrong with you?!

He took deep breaths to calm himself. Here he was, a literal prisoner in his own home, contemplating shooting someone. The possibility of it rained havoc in his thoughts.

Moments passed. He heard nothing.

Minutes. Still nothing.

He surmised the intruder had no idea where Dana was and was at a disadvantage since he was in unfamiliar territory. He would take every step with measured care. Dana was thankful for that. But he knew it wouldn't be long before he would discover his location.

There was a reason he'd gone to that corner of the closet. The gun safety box was there, stashed away above on the closet shelf. He felt safe being so close to it, but he knew he'd feel better if he had his Taurus in his hands.

He peered underneath his hanging wardrobe into the bedroom, listening for any signs of movement. 

Silence.

He raised to a standing position, making a blind grab above and pulled down the green safety box. Sweat rolled down his face into his eye, the stinging sensation alerting him to the sober reality he wasn't dreaming. His hand slipped into his pants pocket, clasping around his keys.

Dana's eyes barely adjusted to the darkness, and it didn't help that he didn't have his glasses. Despite that, it wasn't hard to find the right key since it was the smallest one on his key chain.

With his right thumb, he felt around for the keyhole on the front of the box, pausing a moment to look and listen. Nothing.

He had finished inserting the key when he stopped. Hesitation tapped on his nerves. Could he go through with this? Could he shoot and kill a human being? This was not swatting a fly or stepping on a spider. He was contemplating eliminating a person from the living. The movies made it look so easy. So matter-of-fact. This wasn't the movies, and he wasn't an action hero. This was real life. Real circumstances. Real consequences.

When he had first bought the gun, he never expected to use it. He lived in a nice neighborhood where crime was low to non-existent. It was automatic for anyone you didn't see every day threw up a red flag for all the neighbors. He told his wife it was for safety, just in case, but never expected to use it. He liked guns. Plus, it gave him something to show to others. 

Faced with his current dilemma, he had to come to grips with the reality that he would have to use it and wasn't sure he could do it. He thought of Debbie. The kids. Ten years of marriage. His business. If Dana didn't stop this intruder, he would bring more pain and destroy everything he had. Everything he had worked for and couldn't allow that. He couldn't live with that.

His ears picked up what sounded like feet shuffling across his bedroom. His grip tightened around the key but he didn't turn it. Fear and doubt were reining him in from opening the box for he knew once he did, there was no turning back. What would be done, would be done. He peeped into the room. Nothing.

He felt the lock give as he turned the key. With clammy fingertips, he lifted the lid of the box. The gun's power radiated through the darkness though he couldn't see it. It pulled at him, beckoning him to hold it. Embrace it. Befriend it.

Reaching down inside, his right hand grabbed the gun by its stock. The weight seemed to intensify its presence as he raised it up close to his face. Its steel was as cold as its purpose. Moments passed as he absorbed its authority. His confidence grew tenfold. He was in charge now. He would take care of the problem.

Standing on his feet, he was no longer wary of being heard by the intruder. The gun's weight tugged at his right arm as he stood in the closet doorway.

Hesitance.

Memories.

Turning toward the bedroom door, he readied himself for the confrontation. He gathered his nerves together into a schism of unabashed strength. His resolve was implacable. He'd do what had to be done.

With steady, even strides, he made his way towards the bathroom. He didn't know if the intruder was in there, but he had to be thorough. Search every room. Every corner. Now he was the hunter.

Memories.

Reaching inside the bathroom door, he flicked on the light. The sudden brilliance took his eyes aback. He stood in the doorway squinting for a few moments to let his eyes adjust. Scanning the area, his head rotated from side to side like a searchlight atop a prison tower. The immediate area of the bathroom revealed nothing. Walking further inside, he raised the gun, creeping towards the bathtub. He peered inch by inch around the corner to see if the intruder was waiting to ambush him. Yanking the curtain to one side, he raised the gun ready to fire.

Empty.

Out of the corner of his eye, he glimpsed movement behind him. He froze then let out a heavy sigh.

I knew you were close by. You're not going to hurt my family anymore. We're going to end this. Now.

Taking a deep breath, he turned around.

There the intruder stood, staring at him with identical resolve in his eyes. Somehow, they sensed that the other knew the confrontation was inevitable. For long moments, they stared at one another, their potent, baleful gazes screaming across the space that separated them.

The memories hit him so hard at that instant, it felt as if he'd put his finger in a wall socket. The flood of emotions was overpowering. He could not bare to look at the intruder any longer. A deliberate, steady hand raised the gun, pointed, and fired.

Part II - Suspect Apprehended

Detective Samuel Neff stood at the doorway of the Johansen residence just getting the cobwebs out of his mind. The call came in on his cell phone at 2:03 a.m. It took thirty-four minutes to get dressed and get to the scene. Uniformed officers were already there, the darkness around the home lit up by silent police sirens and side lamps.

He had fifteen years on the force with a little less than half of that in homicide. Neff got a sense of the situation as soon as he walked into a place where a loss of life had occurred. There was always a sense of some amorphous appendage cloying at him. It was the part of his job he hated because he knew it was the vestiges of pain and misery. Hated it because of how well he knew it and how well it knew him.

With a pensive look up the stairs, he listened to the activity that was going on. Breathing out a heavy sigh he rolled his eyes. He wasn't ready to deal with this tonight, or rather, he really didn't want to. But he had no choice. It was his job.

He made his lethargic march up the stairs. No need to rush it. The major damage had was done. The voices and cameras were getting louder in his ascent. Pausing at the landing to put on his mask of hardness, he made his way through the officers gathered around the doorway of the scene. They parted to make room for him to enter.

He looked inside and froze. After all the homicides he'd investigated, he never got used to it which was a good thing. He never wanted to.

Sargent Neff?

Neff pulled his eyes away from the sight before him, happy that he had a reason to.

Yeah?

I'm officer Downey.

Neff glanced over at the body then fixed a firm eye on Downey.

You the responding officer?

Yes sir.

What ya got?

"About 1:50 a.m., the neighbors next door, the Wallaces, report that they heard a gunshot coming from over here. Me and my partner got the call to come over and