“Unit Twelve.” The dispatcher’s voice crackled over the radio.
Sarah perked up. That was her. She listened as the report rolled over the radio. A disturbance in a vacant building out on Wheeler Road, near the big medical center. Probably kids, she thought, responding to Dispatch and turning her patrol car around.
Since the budget cuts, she rolled alone. She hadn’t had a partner in a long time, but she was good at her job and confident in her abilities. She could handle a couple of kids messing around in an empty building.
Sarah stepped into the gloomy concrete interior of the building. The metal door hung off its hinges and old boards covered the windows. Broken glass littered the floor and graffiti decorated the walls.
The latest decorators had probably been junkies and kids looking for a secret place to either get high or drink beer where no one could see. As the early Autumn weather grew colder, places like this became more popular. There didn’t appear to be anyone home at the moment. They’d probably cleared out in a hurry when they’d seen Sarah’s cruiser pull up outside. Still, she had to check the place.
Nightstick in one hand, flashlight in the other, Sarah made her way into the gloom of the building. Electricity was a thing of the past in this place. Light fixtures dangled brokenly from the remnants of a dropped ceiling.
As Sarah advanced into the dark interior, she heard a scurrying sound that could have been footsteps or could have been rodents. Either way, her heart rate sped up.
“Police,” she said, identifing herself in a loud, firm voice. “Show yourself.”
She directed the flashlight into the corners of the room as she crept inside. The place had a vast outer warehouse-type area with halls and doors leading farther inside the big structure. She didn’t really want to go in there but saw no alternative. She decided to advance slowly at first, then zip through the rest of the building, hoping no one got behind her to cut off her retreat.
She had her sidearm, but she’d rather not have to shoot anyone today. Especially not some kids out for a lark. They liked to test their limits and hers. She’d been up against more than one teenage bully who thought because she was a woman, she’d be a pushover. They’d learned the hard way not to mess with Sarah Petit.
She heard that sort of brushing sound again. Her heart raced as adrenaline surged. She’d learned to channel fear into something more useful. Fear became strength if you knew how to use it.
“This is the police,” she repeated. “Step into the light.”
More shuffling. It sounded like it was coming from down a corridor on the left. Sarah approached, her nightstick at the ready. The flashlight illuminated the corner of the opening, not showing her much. The sounds were growing louder. There was definitely someone—or something—there. Perhaps waiting to ambush her, down that dark hallway.
She wouldn’t fall for that. Sarah approached from a good ten feet out, maneuvering so that her flashlight could penetrate farther down the black hall. With each step, more of the corridor became visible to her.
Squinting to see better, Sarah stepped fully in front of the opening to the long hallway. There. Near the end. There was a person standing.
“I’m a police officer. Come out of there immediately.” Her voice was firm and as loud as she could project it. The figure at the end of the hallway didn’t respond. She couldn’t even tell if it was male or female.
It sort of swayed as it tried to move. Maybe a junkie so high he or she was completely out of it? Sarah wasn’t sure. She edged closer.
“Are you all right?”
She heard a weird moaning sound. It didn’t sound human, but the shape at the end of the long hall was definitely standing on two feet with two arms braced against the wall as if for balance. The inhuman moan came again. It was definitely coming from that shadowy person.
Sarah stepped cautiously closer to the mouth of the hallway. It was about four feet across. Not a lot of room to maneuver in.
She didn’t like this setup, but she had to see if that person needed help. Sarah grabbed the radio mic clipped to her shoulder.
“This is Unit Twelve. I’m at the location. There appears to be a person in distress in the interior of the building.”