Moving around at night had always been the best time for Colman to conduct his business. Stealth was the essence of his success. On the streets in the early hours of the morning there were normally very few people, but Colman possessed an uncanny awareness that enabled him to almost feel and hear attackers. A lone person in the dead of night may not always be an easy victim and some people should be left alone in much the same way that a house presenting above average defences should not be burgled. Secure fences, doors and windows should offer a warning to even the most opportunistic thief.
The corridor leading towards Dr. Heather Riding's office was gloomy and at night the building looked as seedy on the inside in the dim light as the dull grey bricks appeared from the outside in the daytime. Colman had used the stairs to reach the second floor, shadowy corners being ideal places to launch an attack on an unsuspecting victim unfortunate enough to be alone in this soulless place.
The distant wailing of a police car or an ambulance could be heard.
The images of Dr. Riding that had been described were in complete conflict with those he sensed in this building and Colman's highly tuned sixth sense seemed to be on the alert, rising up towards a seventh. The vision of the time he'd been on patrol with his Special Operations unit flashed into his mind when he had screamed: "DOWN". There had been no reason to expect an explosion at that moment other than the nature of their work made it likely to happen at some time. Just a fraction of a second after his command the bomb detonated. The instant reaction of well-trained soldiers saved many lives that day. There had been no warning, but Colman somehow just... knew.
The locked door presented no problem to a man with skills such as Colman, acquired through his years of military service. This had left him with remarkable expertise in all sorts of disciplines and he could probably just walk into any number of different jobs suitably qualified for all of them. No longer on active service, nothing seemed to give him quite the challenge and excitement of those dangerous times. The door opened silently and he slipped into the room. The door closed softly behind him. The room was not in total darkness so he switched off the small pencil torch and placed it in an arm pocket of his jacket.
The sirens he had heard earlier were now silent though at such a late hour there shouldn't be much traffic in this desolate part of town. And why would a successful psychiatrist choose this part of town off the main street to set up a business? No doubt there were good business reasons. Perhaps the undisturbed quietness in the area away from the normal madness of a busy town was beneficial. The hairs on his neck began to tingle.
Colman became aware of a red glow that permeated the whole room as he mentally focused onto the gloomy silence and was instantly alerted to an undefined danger. Nothing tangible, but this office broadcast menace. In the stillness of this cold room, Colman approached Heather Riding's desk that had been placed near the south-facing window. His vision was getting accustomed to the meagre light that came from the half-Moon that was clearly visible through the window and the vague red glow. Everything was bathed with in an eerie grey quality. The chair had been moved from the usual central position behind the desk over to one side and turned away so he could only see the back and side of it. In the distance in one corner of the room on a wooden chair, he could just make out a neat pile of dark clothes. Placed on the top was a shirt. Even in the greyness, this was obviously white. As Colman moved closer to the desk he noticed that it was almost empty except for a telephone, a notepad and a small dark box with a tiny yellow light that was slowly winking. Then he saw the heater on the floor nearby that was clearly the source of the red glow in the room. One of those infra-red devices that never seem to yield much heat as they don't warm the surrounding air, only the occupants of a room as they are exposed to the radiation. Colman could feel the warmth at this close range like the sun on a summer's day, but why was this fire switched on at this time in the early morning. And in an empty room?
Colman's sense of danger suddenly increased and he felt the sensation of burning fingers being scraped over the back of his neck. The combined effect of heat on his neck and face produced an intensity he'd never experienced before. In all his years of the most dangerous situations imaginable, he suddenly felt the real fear he'd known as a novice soldier. Fear is ever present no matter what the experience and provides a route to survival. Danger becomes the challenge. But this was different. Out of the corner of his eye, he had sensed rather than seen an image of something that had been sitting in Heather Riding's chair. He moved around the desk to face the chair. It was empty. Everything remained almost as it had been. The pile of clothes remained on the chair and the heater was still on, but curiously the yellow dot of light from the black box had stopped winking. The room was no longer silent. Colman's thumping heartbeat felt as though it would wake the dead. An icy sweat covered his brow as he put a hand on the leather swivel chair.
It was cold.
Rather than confirming his sense of a presence, Colman's feeling of danger was raised even more. This he could hardly imagine was possible. The heater was in front of the desk chair and he was sure he had seen something sitting in that chair. That something had disappeared and the chair was cold.
© Louis Brothnias, v 2.1 (2009)