Des Moines Homicide detective Harry Reznik and F.B.I. agent, Lori Campisi, have their hands more than a little full when they team up to investigate a series of gruesome murders.
With life throwing them one obstacle after another, the unlikely pair has no choice but to put their personal issues aside as they battle malevolent creatures from another dimension. With everything to lose, they have no one but each other to count on in a wicked game of survival.
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– “I’m a huge mystery fan anyway and he did a terrific job of drawing me into the story, even in just those few paragraphs. I was impressed by how he painted vivid scenes in my mind with the words he used; it certainly didn’t feel like I was reading the work of a novice. I know that you must be very proud of his accomplishments and rightfully so. He might be the next James Patterson.” – B. Arnall
– “Just finished Night Shadows. Think I might need to leave the lights on.” – K. Hebert
– “Started reading your book last night around 7pm and absolutely couldn’t put it down! Finished it around midnight. Worst thing was I couldn’t turn the lights off. I slept with them on all night. The last book that had that effect on me was the Exorcist.” – M. Morgan
– “I just finished reading Night Shadows and truly enjoyed it. I must admit, though, that I had to put it aside one evening when I was alone and waiting for my husband to come home – a little too spooky.” – Lisa Hynek
The Maury Street neighborhood fell into the latter category. Short strips of pitted blacktop led to junk-filled lawns and ramshackle houses. On the western edge, just before the downtown, several small industries hunkered behind chain link fences. As he got closer to Southeast Fourteenth, the neighborhood assumed a veil of dirty brown. Unwashed. Untidy.
Reznik drove a department vehicle, a maroon Buick LeSabre. He stole quick glances at Agent Campisi who rode shotgun. She is a strange one. From the moment she entered the car, she stared straight ahead, hands in her lap, her face a blank mask. She chose to remain silent during the short trip. Reznik struggled to find some opening to strike up a discussion, but resigned himself to munching his Pop Tart. He mentally kicked himself for not grabbing a coffee. The damn pastry, while delicious, created sticky gobs in the back of his throat.
They discovered Officer Stanfield not at the Maury-East Fourteenth intersection, but a couple of blocks south in the parking lot of a closed and boarded up tavern. Officer Kelli Stanfield was a short pretty blonde who’d very quickly adjusted to big city life. She’d come from a hamlet in northeast Iowa and been on the force about seven months. She exhibited dedication, enthusiasm, spunk, but found herself a regular target for most of the bachelor officers as well as a few married ones. Fortunately, as Harry remembered, a no-nonsense father and two older brothers who became all state wrestlers in college raised her. Hence, she took crap from nobody.
Harry saw Stanfield trying to calm a short man in a dirty overcoat and scuffed black shoes as he and Campisi exited the car. A few days worth of stubbly facial hair matched the color of the tangled, gray mess on the man’s head.
“Now, Mr. Warton, just calm down,” she said as Reznik and Campisi approached. “As you can see, the detective in charge is here and we’ll get this matter sorted out.”
Warton shifted from one foot to the other as if his soles burned and looked repeatedly behind him at the decrepit bar.
Reznik nodded a greeting to the officer. “What’s up?”
Stanfield gestured to her nervous ward. “This is Mr. Jeffrey Warton. He reported to me about his friend who may have been a witness to your murders last night. I haven’t gotten the story clarified, but when he mentioned Ewing Park I thought I’d better call it in.”
“Thanks,” Reznik said, then turned to the man. “Mr. Warton, I’m Detective Reznik and this is Agent Campisi. Why don’t you tell me what’s going on? Nice and slow from the beginning.”
The beginning kept restarting as Warton stumbled over his words. He was a shaky little guy who constantly readjusted his balance, kept wiping the sweat from his forehead, and displayed an inordinate amount of fear for his friend. Reznik recognized the pale and clammy skin combined with Warton’s jumbled thoughts as some of the signs of alcohol withdrawal. Warton barely managed to
stutter out his story.
He and his pal, Ronald Leahy, eked out a living begging and doing odd jobs up and down Fourteenth. With no permanent residence, they stayed in various hidey holes of empty houses or closed businesses. They usually stayed in the old bar. That morning, Leahy had staggered in after being out all night. Warton hadn’t been worried. He figured Leahy had slept off a drunk somewhere. However, Leahy kept mumbling and rambling to himself when he arrived.
“Rantin’ crazy words.” Warton words came quick and sharp. “On and on. I didn’t unner unnerstan’ it. It warn’t like him.”
“What did he rant about?”
“I don’t know!” Warton hopped up and down in frustration. “Words and h–half sentences. Ewing Park, naked kids, shadows, blood, screaming. I tried to calm him down, but whenever I got near him, he’d scream and push me away. It’s like he was possessed.”
“Wait a minute, sir.” Reznik held up his palms. “Back up a minute. Tell me about what your friend said about blood and shadows.”
Warton made a visible effort to collect his thoughts, swallowed, and wiped his open mouth with a couple of fingers. “I don’t know, I tell you. No sense, no s–sense at all.”
“He said he watched two kids take off their clothes.”
“Yes, go on,” Harry urged.
More hopping. “Then he said sumpun’ attacked them.”
“Something, not someone.”
Warton’s voice turned raspy. “Shadows. He said the shadows attacked them. Tore ’em up.”
Agent Campisi stepped forward and spoke for the first time since the station house. “Are you sure he said shadows?”
“Somebody came from the shadows and–“
“No! He said the shadows done it. Killed them kids.
He’s crazy, I tell you. I know he goes off sometimes, but he ain’t usually so bad.”
Harry let his eyes roam over the bar and the gravel strewn blacktop. He took in the nondescript building to the north. “Where is Mr. Leahy now, sir?”
Warton turned and pointed at the boarded up tavern. Officer Stanfield explained. “He left Leahy to find help. Waved me down. I figured I’d get his story and then call for back up.”
“Right,” Reznik agreed. “You stay here with Mr. Warton. Come on, Campisi, time to earn your keep.”
The dilapidated tavern sat a few hundred yards south of a dive pizza joint, just north of the riverbank across the street from a park undergoing construction. Piles of dirt dotted the grounds as if a giant gopher lived underneath.
The tavern itself showed missing pieces of siding near the foundation, as if other abnormally sized rodents had chewed through the walls. Plywood, turned a sickly dark brown by Mother Nature, covered every door and window.
At the rear, they discovered a sealed door once used for deliveries. “The two hobos had been pretty ingenious,” Reznik thought as he studied the entrance. On the lower half of the door, a three-foot square cutaway rigged to slide back and forth hid the evidence of the secret opening.
Harry squatted near the opening and peered at the darkness beyond with a flashlight retrieved from the car in one hand. He moved his other hand nearer to the nine millimeter holstered on his hip. A similar weapon had somehow materialized in Campisi’s hand. Strange, he hadn’t noticed a holster. She didn’t even carry a purse.
“Ronald Leahy? This is the police. Are you in there?”
No answer. Reznik glanced up at Campisi. She still exhibited no readable expression.
“Mr. Leahy? We just want to talk.”
Still nothing. No sounds except the traffic passing and a few birds.
After a third entreaty, Harry murmured to the FBI agent, “What do you think?”
She shrugged. “Your call. I’m just here to assist.”
Reznik smirked. “Don’t start that shit.” He turned back to the opening. “Mr. Leahy, we’re coming in. We’re not going to hurt you.”
He hesitated another moment, muttered an expletive under his breath, drew his gun, and advanced through the hole. Just inside, he paused to let his eyes adjust to the lack of light. He shone the flashlight beam in all directions and stepped to one side to let Campisi enter. The flashlight revealed a narrow hall with a couple of doors on one side, then an open entrance to the main barroom. He glanced at Campisi and they both advanced with caution.
The first doorway opened on a storeroom, empty except for rotten shelves. Even time and the elements hadn’t dispelled the faint trace of alcohol still lingering in the musty air.
They halted at the second door. Harry figured it was an office. The previous owner hadn’t bothered selling everything. An old wooden desk bound for the landfill rested near one wall. One of the slots for four drawers gaped empty, another drawer hung broken and askew, half off its rails. A metal file cabinet stood nearby, so rusted the original color remained unknown. Otherwise, the room was bare.
At the opening to the barroom proper, Reznik again called out for Leahy, repeated his identification and the purpose of his visit, and received the same silence in return. The long bar, scarred with countless cigarette burns and stained with endless spills of alcohol, ran almost the entire length of one wall. The one remaining table on the main floor leaned at a forty-degree angle, the cripple left
behind to suffer the indignity of a broken leg. Debris scattered about evidenced others who’d
previously sought shelter in the abandoned building. Reznik hadn’t noticed the smaller holes in the walls from outside, but light filtered through the violence of shotgun blasts. Other holes had been punched out by pipes or other weapons. The entire scene was nothing but sheer vandalism.
Harry found Ronald Leahy in one of the far corners.
After only a few seconds of recognizing what lie on the floor, he turned away.
“What is it?”
He didn’t say anything, just handed her the light. Let her get her first look at what too many others had seen. See what she thinks of the boiled, gouged, bloody remains, exactly the same as had been discovered four other times.
* * *
Campisi stared at the corpse, the flashlight creating shiny patches on the blood-slicked ravages and the darker areas on the far side of the body. She studied the remains of the homeless man with a clinical eye. Her brain registered each wound without emotion, revulsion only the slightest reaction on her face.
Opportunistic flies explored the blood and Campisi noticed where rats had previously feasted. No, she didn’t acknowledge the body as anything other than a tragedy, another murder victim. She’d witnessed many forms of death during her career.
What did seep up out of her subconscious, to get a tentative finger hold on her mind, was the location of the corpse.
Inside a darkened room.
A connection clicked to someplace darker.
Someplace she didn’t want to be. A place she’d been before…
She closed her eyes. For years, she’d fought a dual mental battle. One part struggled in vain, desperately trying to remember. Where? No light pierced the constant impenetrable black.
Another part of her mind, the rational professional part, suggested the current time and the place weren’t appropriate for the other’s exertions.
Jaw tightened, and her lips thinned to a stark white as tension set like cement on her face. This mental struggle…something new, or rather a familiar one in a new location at a new time. The nightmare, so often experienced and suffered while asleep, now came to her, reaching tendrils into her consciousness, seeking a firm hold.
Why now? Because of the corpse in front of her?
Because of what she suspected had been the cause of death?
Or because of the site of a previously dark shadowy place where…
She couldn’t remember.
But again, this wasn’t the place to try to fight personal demons. She had a job to do and a hard nosed cop with whom to try to work.
As she turned away from what had once been a man, she did not looking forward to the near future, to the joust with Detective Harry Reznik.
He was going to be trouble.