Stupid, Sam thought as she spun. The woman had been smart enough to use the droplets as a decoy. But while the other woman was big and strong, Sam had the advantage of agility. She twisted and redirected the charging female’s weight, shunting her into the open shaft…
Even as her gun flew right after.
The flashlight hit the ground at Sam’s feet. There was a long, ear-splitting scream, followed by a sudden impact… then the sharp crack and clatter of the gun hitting bottom.
Breathless, Sam put her hands to her knees, relieved beyond words to still be alive. And then… the thought hit her:
If bullets wouldn’t kill the Hell Hounds, a four-story drop probably wouldn’t either.
Sam snatched up the flashlight, knelt at the edge, one hand on the wall, and directed the beam down. It reached just far enough that she could make out the twisted body at the bottom of the shaft. A black shape that looked like her gun was in the corner a few feet away. For a moment there was only Sam’s breathing. Everything below was still.
Then, she saw the woman’s hand move. The head turned to stare up at her.
Sam ran, flashlight swinging, to the stairs and down, hoping that she could get there before the woman was able to reach her gun. She couldn’t leave the attacker to come back after her and she couldn’t leave the gun, in case any more of her kind showed up.
Soon she was at the bottom of the stairs, then out to the elevator bank. She sped to the edge of the shaft and remembered that it continued for almost another story below. It was just space for the now-missing machinery that had operated the elevators, though; there was no door down there. Shining the light down, she saw the body shifting, those eyes gazing up. The floor beneath was darkly wet. Wretched hacking sounds were emanating from the woman’s throat as she spat blood.
It was Paula… Paula the nurse who had been taking care of Uncle Brewin.
The left side of her face was a bloody mess, but Sam recognized her. The woman’s legs were bent at odd angles. As Sam watched, spellbound, they began popping, re-setting into place. The head twisted to one side and Paula’s eyes landed on the gun. She reached out…
Sam would have to drop down. Into the concrete pit with… her.
Still holding the flashlight she lowered herself over the edge, kicked out her feet and dropped…
Directly onto the woman’s large form. Her legs went out from beneath her and the flashlight flipped away to one side but her upper torso fell toward the corner where the gun lay. She grabbed for it as the nurse pawed at her. Sam’s fingers brushed cold metal and she snatched up the pistol.
The flashlight flickered and went out.
A garbled snarl accompanied a lunge from the shape in the dark. Sam raised the gun, unaware whether or not it had been damaged in the fall. If it had, Sam knew without a doubt that Paula would rip her to pieces.
Sam pulled the trigger.
In the muzzle flash Paula’s blood-smeared face was briefly lit, even as the silver bullet struck her left eye, snapping her head back, a fine mist exiting the back of her skull.
A persistent ring dominated Sam’s ears and the flash remained imprinted on her eyes. She sat up, backed away and blinked repeatedly. When her vision cleared the after-image was replaced by oppressive darkness.
Sam then became immediately, acutely aware of the fact that she was trapped in the square, cement hole with a corpse. Her hand brushed against the dead woman’s foot and she recoiled with a shuddery moan.
For a moment dark thoughts ran unchecked and she imagined the cadaver moving, unseen, reaching with cold dead hands…
Something slithered over her hand and she screamed, waving both hands frantically. She scooted back and something crunched beneath her. Then she remembered the cockroaches she had seen down here earlier.
She had to get out. Get out now or risk going insane.
Forcing her brain to focus on escape, she replaced the gun in the ankle holster with one shaky hand, then stood and began feeling the concrete walls around her.
There were thin, vertical rails spaced several inches apart but there were also horizontal metal strips that met her fingers when she stretched. She made her way to the wall directly under the opening, wincing as cockroaches crunched beneath her shoes. There was no strip under the opening, but there was one on the wall to her left. And now that her eyes were adjusting, the scant light allowed her to make out the dark metal. She reached up…
It wasn’t very thick. Maybe a half inch. But if she could haul herself up and then switch her hands over to the bottom of the opening she may be able to pull her body out.
Glancing once more at the still form of Paula, Sam set her shoes against the cement, shoved her fingers as tightly as possible onto the rusty strip, and heaved.
Her entire body shook with the effort, and several of her nails bent back or broke. But, she had pulled her chin up to the level of her hands. Looking over, she could see the bottom of the opening. With one desperate lunge she threw herself over…
And her hands caught the ledge. She scrambled to get her lower arms and elbows up onto the floor, then leaned her entire body forward, getting her chest up and over the edge.
Struggling for breath, she dragged the rest of her body onto the filthy cracked tiles.