Part 3: The Industrial Park
Roger took his shortcut and arrived way before the cops. The Ludwig Industrial Park was massive; it would take the cops at least twenty to circle the place, much less begin to clear towards Roger.
But he had an inkling, an unfamiliar trust clicking beyond his brain. Roger rolled the truck up to a perimeter chain link fence, threw the driver’s side door open and stomped to the front to the vehicle, smashing at the lock until it thwanged open. With a little shoving, the truck wiggled through the opening. Barbed wire wobbled and chimed its presence; a flailing, noisy handsaw belting a hypnotic tune.
A minute drive down a dirt path through the work in progress renovation on an old factory, Ludwig. Too many times he’d met unnamed dealers in this lot to get his oxys, and the pills pumped and kicked in the back of his neck as he remembered for a brief moment life was like without his sturdy rock, his foundation, without the medication, without the doctor’s comforting prescriptions, a jumbled mess of handwriting and lies, the sweet relief of being your own man and not a burden on the world. He knocked back two more pills from the small bottle in his pocket, hitting plenty of bumps along the way.
No more paths, no more roads. Concrete mixers slept in the still night. His smartphone incessantly nagged at him, buzzing and ringing and beeping. Who cared at this point?
Roger yanked the phone from his pocket to stop the annoyance, automatically opening to his texts. He paused, momentarily forgetting the whole ordeal, Roger’s face illuminated against the smartphone’s intense screen light.
“calling Slater now. ty bradley”
“everything fukkin sucks”
“it gets easier, i promise lol”
He shoved the phone back into his pocket. Kevin’s F-150 came to a sudden stop.
Roger brandished the axe and unceremoniously smashed his way into the New Ludwig Warehouse Complex. Dark, unfinished hallways. Desks where receptionists once happily greeted customers. Today, Roger was there to save his daughter.
As he passed the first set of doors, he found himself in a waiting room, a half-demolished lounge, enough to understand the old place. Speakers on the wall were dusty but audibly active, soft static creaking through the metal.
Tinny laughter sprang to life behind crackling speakers, peeling through the warehouse hallways and lounge.
Roger spun around wildly, swinging the axe with reckless strength.
“She’s mine now. You should turn back.”
Roger roared into dark nothingness. “If you touch her I will rip your arms off!”
“It’s too late for that.”
The speakers hummed, anger gripping the back of Roger’s eyes. He was on fire, his soul erupted. He held down the axe, a tight, furious grip, and charged into the darkness. There was only one way in, down the double doors opposite the entrance to the lounge. So he ran towards them. There was no going back now.
Padlocked door. Three mighty chops with the fireman’s axe demolished the doorknob, a length of chain rattled to the floor, and a swift kick sent the door swinging.
The speakers came alive again.
“They made me a monster. You were born horrid. No child should endure the pain you've caused her.”
His eyes widened and wondered.
A sea of hanging knives and foundry shards, dangling from ceiling fans, dormant, catching glints of the night sky through boarded windows. Moonlight shone into the grey chamber, a few old, rotting corpses scattered in the meat-grinder. There was no time to think. Roger rushed forward toward the door at the other end of the room. Power suddenly surged into the fans, igniting a deadly bladestorm, tearing into Roger’s shoulders and back before sending him prone with a crack and a thud. A torrent of chains and metal, a hellish clinking, dried blood chips and shards of metal raining down from above. He still clenched the axe, and sidled up against the back wall barely safe from the home brew terror gauntlet.
His back against beveled concrete, Roger slid along the wall, reaching another padlocked steel door. Peering through the argyle safety glass window, Roger could only make out a metal chair in the distance of a sparsely lit room, a young girl’s legs dangling from the seat.
Again, three chops was enough to open the way forward. Flashbacks to Doom keycards momentarily passed through his mind. Absurd to think about in the moment, his shoulder torn, blood seeping under the layers.
“The agony, the burning, the stress… Do you know what children's narcotics taste like after a grueling day of gum surgery? I know you, Roger. And you know the taste.”
Does a waffle-knit undershirt clot blood better than a regular cotton wife-beater? He should have Googled it before he left. Extra peace of mind.
Darkness. Pain. A wet grip on the axe made it odd to hold, blood quickly coagulating on the shaft.
Roger pressed his back against the cold steel door, preparing to recklessly storm the room. He bellowed into the room. “Samantha!” Echoes bounced into the darkness. No response. He leaned back and the door gave way. Axe swings into the darkness. Wild, frantic swings around each corner, anticipating the ambush. Only concrete. Roger ran for his daughter, reaching the bloody metal chair and whipping it around, instantly frozen when staring back at empty orbital sockets.
Samantha was far from alive. A tormented and tragic corpse, ghoulish in the greyish sense. Her face was bloody but the skin was mostly intact and blood-filled red, stretched and sinewy where Robbie had cut to remove swatches or snip tendons to make surgery easier. Fresh blood pooled in gum sockets, teeth all but removed, only softer pieces from those that broke during extraction. He couldn’t find her tongue. Roger only caught a glimpse of Samantha’s mangled hands before feeling a horrible presence looming behind him.
He turned around and time stopped. Stepping softly from the shadows, Robbie had appeared, wielding a long, jagged hunting knife. A heartbeat, a delicious lick of love, a brain-kiss touched him immediately before the knife plunged deep into Roger’s shoulder. He reeled back, collapsing against the tables and benches and killer’s instruments lining the concrete wall, clashes and clangs as knives and clamps and bloody gauze rained down on his head.
Robbie knelt before Roger, shooting him a soft grin and a defensive look up and down. A sinister end, a wretched smile, his red chin stained with Samantha's gooey-fresh blood. Roger broke and bellowed, crying into his last few moments. Robbie's mouth had been clearly emptied of his natural teeth; dental procedures from long ago removed with rocks and hammers one bleak night. The tanned skin spots and leathery cheeks wrinkled as Samantha's teeth came into view, braces somewhat attached, a spider’s web of steel and dental wire. Barely any white was visible. Many of the roots were still attached.
Two hands reached around and pulled a pistol from the back of Robbie's pants. He held the gun flimsily at Roger, hovering the sight at his face. Roger was silent and horrified, a broken heap, the excessive amount of blood leaking from his wound causing him to drift in and out of his thoughts. His stomach dropped out, everything felt bleak and empty, and yet the pills continued the pace their way through his bloodstream, into his brain and out his shoulder.
“FREEZE! DROP THE WEAPON!!”
He barely heard Detective Martinez above his own pain and guilt. Samantha was dead. Samantha was here because he led her here. Nothingness began to creep in. Robbie quickly turned and opened fire on the detective, who immediately returned with her own destructive force. Shots rang out for what seemed like hours. Robbie hit the floor, bloody and perforated. Martinez was on one knee, her shoulder clipped and one to the chest Kevlar.
She stared at Roger. “Are you okay?” She dropped to her ass with a thud, reaching into her belt for a tourniquet. As she began to put pressure on her shoulder, she noticed Roger sliding himself towards Robbie's firearm.
“Mr. Lauds. Mr. Lauds please.”
Roger couldn't hear her. He failed and Samantha was dead and it was only a matter of time before they all blamed him again. His broken brain, his mistakes could never stop hurting him. The only way out was redemption, and there is no redemption for demons.
“Mr. Lauds. It will be okay now.”
Reaching into his pocket, Roger slowly pulled out his phone, a dimly lit touchscreen already opened to a messaging app. Martinez lowered her weapon and crawled towards Roger. He was frozen, his hand outstretched. Tears drenched his cheeks. Martinez’s eyes widened as the sender and receiver came into view, from Samantha Lauds to Bradley Baker. Roger only wanted to be closer to his daughter. Pits of rationalizing, currents against the dam, it all finally broke.
“How could you have known? You will be forgiven.”
Roger raised the gun to his temple and fired, sending a fatal bullet into his skull. Blood splattered against the back wall and Martinez’s shirt. She dropped her head.
Sirens roared in the distance. Officers came and assisted Martinez, and began to secure the scene. A medic tended to her arm while she made a call.
“We got him. But it’s not pretty.” The radio went unassumingly silent, then suddenly crackled to life again.
“Did Lauds follow you there? What happened to him?” Detective Roons was talking quicker than usual.
“He's dead. The girl is dead.” Ramirez sounded a bit shaken.
“She was dead the second she was in that warehouse and you know it. Good work, Martinez. We’ll debrief in the morning.
The phone went silent. She watched the coroner zip up Roger Lauds. No one would miss him.
But some little girls would be safer tonight.