Sam had already drawn her Glock when she stepped into the hallway.
The first bullet passed so close to her head that it flicked her hair. The second sliced the air on the other side of her head, and the third bullet shot past her a few feet away.
She was able to catch only a glimpse of the shooter as she darted back into the room: it was mostly silhouette, but it was female, heavyset.
Sam thought about retrieving the flashlight from her jacket— but worried that it would just give the shooter something to aim at. For right now, with the window openings and the faint light spilling through them, there was just enough illumination that the flashlight wasn’t critical.
Adjusting her level, Sam squatted down, put her back to the jamb and spun, swinging the gun out and to the left. She fired twice before realizing the woman was no longer there.
Standing, Sam kept her gun trained down the hall as she proceeded cautiously. There were five more rooms, two on each side and one at the end of the hall. Placing her back to the wall next to the first doorway on her right, she glanced across and into the opposite room. She then quickly pivoted into the doorway next to her, fanning her gun around the open space and quickly checking the bathroom. Once that room was cleared she rapidly crossed the hall and repeated the process. The next room had an entire section of floor missing; rotted away.
The shooter could have dropped through the floor, or she could still be in one of the remaining rooms. Sam decided to continue on.
As quickly as possible she cleared the final two side rooms. Here at the end of the hall the ceiling was deteriorated, crumbling away. Passing quickly through the final doorway at the end of the hall, Sam skirted to one side and took in her surroundings.
It was a fairly large room, with the shadowy remains of wooden pews—pieces large and small, cast about as if tossed by a strong wind. She ensured that no one was hiding behind the larger pew pieces, then proceeded toward the rear wall and the small stage that jutted out from it. There on the platform in the dimness were the broken remnants of a simple wooden cross.
Pain lanced through Sam’s skull but it was accompanied by flashes, of her coming here when the chapel was pristine; coming here confused, scared and alone, wondering if there was a God, and thinking that if God did exist he or she must be sleeping on the job.
This made Sam think of Elias and his “clockmaker” theory. Either way, Sam thought, whether there was no God or whether it had abandoned its creations, that God seemed mostly useless.
As Sam headed out of the chapel a female voice drifted from nowhere, and seemingly everywhere.
“I’m not used to firing a gun,” it said.
Hoping that if she could keep the woman talking it would be easier to pinpoint her, Sam answered: “I could tell. So what is this… revenge for me killing Kronin?”
The answer was laughter, bouncing off the walls and echoing through the hallway as the sky outside grew darker.
“He had me watching you…. But Nina had it right,” the voice said. “About Kronin’s obsession with you; about his actions bringing unwanted attention.”
Sam had already suspected that her shooter was one of the Hell Hounds, but now she had confirmation. Meaning her Glock would be useless. She holstered it, squatted down, pulled up her pant leg and retrieved the baby Desert Eagle Elias gave her. As she did so she continued talking: “That must really screw with your agenda… Armageddon and all that. So tell me something… did you become a servant of Satan before or after you got bit?”
“The only person I serve is me,” the voice answered. Unfortunately, the acoustics inside the old hospital were still making it difficult to pinpoint the shooter’s location.
Sam was approaching the section of weakened floor as she said “I thought you all drank the same Kool-Aid.”
“Some believe, some don’t,” the voice replied as Sam put her back against the wall so she could work her way around the section of weak floor. “You know what separates us from angels and demons, if they do exist?” the voice continued. “Free will. You think they have any real kind of freedom? Nope. But humans… we make our own way. You can bet if angels and demons really are out there, they hate us for it.”
Even against the wall, this area of the floor creaked. Seconds after the groaning noise sounded beneath her feet, bullets ripped up from below, less than six inches away.
Sam bolted for the staircase.
She rushed down one flight, then another. An instant before she reached the door for the fourth floor, it came crashing open, colliding with her head and knocking her back. Before she knew what was happening she was against the stairs, grappling with some crazed, snarling woman. Everything was happening so fast that at first all Sam could do was register frazzled blonde hair and significant weight atop her as she struggled with the woman’s immense strength. Out of reflex Sam slammed her head upward, and felt something crack from the impact.
The weight eased off of her enough for her to wrench the gun—a nine mil semi-automatic, from the woman’s grip. But even as Sam brought her own pistol up, the crazed female stood, yanked Sam upward and over the short wall and handrail leading down to floor three.
Sam landed awkwardly, upside-down, but as far as she could tell, nothing was broken. The frizzy-headed woman peered down from the landing as Sam readjusted, raised her gun and fired two shots. The heavyset female tore off back through the fifth floor doorway.
Seconds later Sam was up, forcing her aching body to move. She retrieved the flashlight which had fallen from her pocket. On the way to the door she kicked the woman’s gun which had been left on the landing. Now at least her enemy was unarmed. Unless she had a backup.
Sam was through the door, flashlight aimed ahead of her, ready to fire at the slightest movement. By now the sun was setting and everything outside her mag light beam was a dim collection of shadows. On the floor her light revealed dark spots.
At least one of Sam’s shots had hit its target. She crept on, alert to every sound, her own breathing seeming too loud in the still silence. Following the dark droplets, she came to the elevator bank. Square, empty spaces opened into the deep, dismal shafts. And the droplets… they stopped at the middle opening.
Sam was standing there, frowning down, when she heard the rapid steps behind her.