Part three of Star Kindler's Slenderman series
Detective Carl Rourke pushed his chair back from his desk and rubbed his eyes. The book he had been reading fell on the desk with a small plop. He stood up and moved to his window and was surprised to find the sun had gone down. Turning to the clock on his desk, the little red digital numbers told him it was nine o’clock. He laughed. ”Shame your dead, Connor,” he said, picking up the book again. ”You’ve got a great writing style.” He tapped the book against his hand. ”And I think I understand what’s going on now.”
For the past couple of weeks, Rourke had been looking for leads in the case of the death of Connor Russell. A young woman, Cassandra Brighton, had seen a “faceless man” look out the window after Connor pushed himself out of his burning building. She had subsequently died in a fire as well. Connor’s psychiatrist, Dr. Ellen Kennedy, had just died in a bizarre car accident that had ruptured her gas tank and caused it to go up in flames. And this book of Connor’s “By the Fire’s Light” held the key. In it Connor described a tall faceless man with tentacles that went around and stalked people and killed them. Usually in relation to fire in some way.
It seemed simple enough to Rourke. Some psycho fan of Connor’s, or of this Slender Man, was acting out on one very bizarre fantasy. And just like the “real” Slender Man he was branching off onto anyone who had seen him, stalking and eventually killing them. With this in mind, Rourke had had a special watch set up on Meredith Grolinsky, the woman who had witnessed what she called a tall, slender and tentacled man walking away from Dr. Ellen Kennedy’s burning car. If this psycho stayed true to form, he would go after her next. When he did, Rourke would be ready and waiting.
Rourke rubbed the back of his neck and flipped the lights off on the way out of his office. He paused and considered taking Connor’s book with him. Shaking his head, he kept going. He actually wanted to sleep tonight, and a faceless monster would not aid him in that quest. ”Call me if anything happens with Grolinsky,” he called to Deloran, the desk sergeant, as he headed out.
“Will do,” Deloran said, with a small wave.
As Rourke slept that night, his sleep was undisturbed by dreams, good or bad. A shrill screeching from his smartphone at 3 am, however, pulled him from his dreamless slumber. ”Rourke,” he said groggily, brushing sleep crust out of his right eye.
“Detective Rourke, this is Sergeant Deloran.”
Rourke shot straight up, his sleep falling from him like his blanket. ”Someone made a move against Grolinsky?’
A pause. ”We’re not sure.”
Rourke growled in frustration. ”What do you mean you’re not sure? Either someone made a move or they did not.”
“Her furnace exploded.”
Rourke nearly dropped his phone. ”I beg your pardon?”
“Fire department isn’t sure how yet. Could have been a defect in the furnace. Could have been foul play.”
Rourke put a hand to his temple. ”Fire again.” He slowly shook his head. ”Connor’s stove has a gasoline leak and explosion. Cassandra Brighton dies in a fire caused by faulty wiring. Ellen Kennedy’s car is wrecked and the gasoline tank ruptured resulting in a fire. And now Meredith Grolinsky dies in a furnace blast. There is no way this was an accident.”
“She’s not dead.”
“She’s alive,” Rourke said, incredulous. He was already up and searching for the pants he had tossed on the floor on his way to bed. ”Where is she? Where was she taken?”
“She was taken to Mercy. She’s in critical condition, with burns over 90% of her body. But she’s alive.”
Rourke was jumping into his pants, hopping up and down on one foot with the phone still held to his ear with his shoulder. ”Alright, Deloran, call the hospital and get them to keep the ambulance drivers there if you can. Or call the drivers back or whatever. They probably won’t let me see Grolinsky, but she might have said something they overheard.”
“Will do,” Deloran said on the other end.
Twenty-five minutes later found Rourke pulling into the emergency room parking lot at Mercy. Deloran had texted him on the way over and directed him to speak with the nurse at the desk. She would be able to tell him where the drivers were.
Rourke took a quick look around the emergency room waiting area as he walked inside. Chairs that looked comfortable but might as well have been padded with granite formed a square that was broken up every ten chairs or so by a small wooden stand. On the stands were stacks of magazines from three months ago, with the very exciting topics of bass fishing and home living. The walls were painted a neutral beige, probably an attempt to try and calm any panicked people who were unlucky enough to be sitting here. A mother with a hyper-active little boy with a gauze bandage around his wrist sat at one end of the room. On the opposite end, nearer Rourke, a young woman with long black hair sat bent over, face in her hands.
Turning from the waiting room, Rourke made his way over to the desk. A nurse in blue scrubs sat behind the counter. Her name badge told him her name was Amber, and the little smiling sun on it told Rourke she would be happy to help him. She looked up as he walked up. ”Detective Rourke, here about Meredith Grolinsky,” he said, flipping out his badge.
Amber nodded and stood up. ”We stopped the drivers before they left. There in the break room down the hall there, third door on the right.” She pointed down the hallway Rourke should take.
“How is Ms. Grolinsky?” he asked, whipping out a small notebook.
“She’s in critical condition. We have a couple doctors trying to stabilize her now.”
“I heard she had burns over 90% of her body.”
Amber nodded. ”That is correct. It’s really going to be touch and go for the next couple hours. If she pulls through she’s got a good shot at recovery. If not…”
Rourke nodded. ”Any family come with her?”
Amber nodded to the young woman bent over with her face in her hands. ”Her daughter came in about ten minutes ago.”
Rourke made a mental note to try and talk with her on the way out. Then, giving his thanks to Amber, he walked down the hallway to the breakroom.
The door creaked as he pushed it open. A young woman and man looked up as he walked in. ”You the detective?” the young woman asked, leaning back in her chair.
“Yes,” Rourke said, flipping out his badge again. “Detective Carl Rourke. I wanted to ask you a few questions about the woman you transported here.” He whipped out his notebook again, pen in hand. “Can I get your names?”
“I’m Robert Fitzgerald, she’s Peggy Yorick,” the young man said, leaning forward. “What’s the
deal, you think someone tried to murder this chick?”
“The deal is, I am just trying to gather the facts about what happened,” Rourke said. He hooked a chair with his leg and pulled it out. Sitting down, he looked up at the twosome. ”Was there anyone you saw at the house when you arrived that looked out of place?”
“Crowd of gawkers,” Peggy said, reaching into her coat. She pulled out a cigarette and tapped it against her hand. ”That’s nothing unusual though. Especially when a house goes kaboom in the middle of the night and there’s half a dozen fire trucks and police cars outside.” She shook her head. ”Can we hurry this up? We have to go back on shift in thirty minutes and I want to get a smoke in.”
“Of course,” Rourke said. He turned to Robert. “You didn’t see anything unusual?”
“Crater where a house used to be. Otherwise no,” he said, yawning slightly.
“Hm,” Rourke said, making a note. He looked up again. ”Was Ms. Grolinsky conscious at all when you brought her in?”
“Very briefly,” Robert said. ”Screaming her head off. Considering how we found her, I’d say that’s reasonable.”
“Kept going on about the fire until she blacked out after we had in her the back of the van,” Peggy said, the tapping of her cigarette becoming more insistent.
“Anything specific?” Rourke said, his voice becoming slightly more tense.
“She said something about seeing something by the light of the fire,” Robert said, running a hand through his hair. “I think.”
“I saw it coming by the fire’s light,” Peggy said, almost without thinking. Robert and Rourke glanced at her. She shrugged. ”That’s what she said. ’I saw it coming by the fire’s light.’”
Rourke wrote down the phrase in his notebook. ”It? Not him or her? You’re sure?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m sure,” Peggy said with a wave of her hand. ”Is that it?”
“Yes, that’s all for now,” Rourke said.
“Good,” Peggy muttered getting up. She exited without a backward glance.
Rourke raised an eyebrow as he stuffed his notebook back in his jacket pocket. ”She’s all choked up,” he said getting up.
Robert gave him a bemused look. ”It’s the nature of the job. You don’t last long if you don’t build up a few walls. I’m sure you’ve learned that too.”
Rourke nodded his assent. Then, he left the room as well, making his way back to the emergency waiting room.
The black haired woman that was Meredith Grolinsky’s daughter was standing at the nurse’s desk. ”They’re taking her back to a room now,” Amber was saying. ”You’ll be able to see her for a few minutes, but only for a few.”
Rourke walked up to the desk. ”Is she going to pull through then?”
Amber turned towards him and gave a half-hearted smile. ”They’ve stabilized her as best they can. It’s going to be something of a waiting game for the next twenty-four hours.”
“Who are you?” the black-haired woman asked.
“Detective Carl Rourke,” he said.
“Detective?” she said, her eyes going wide. ”Did someone do this to my mother?” She took a step forward.
“That’s what I’m trying to find out, Ms.?”
“Mira. Mira Gorlinsky.”
“Mira, could you answer a few quick questions?”
“Sure,” she said, swaying slightly as she stood.
Amber caught her hand. ”Sit down!” she said, pointing to a chair by the desk. There was a note of confidence and command in her voice that pierced whatever fog Mira was in and she sat down. She shuddered. Amber was already in motion, filling a small cup with water and giving it to the young woman. ”Slow sips,” she said, as she took her place back behind the desk again. She flicked her gaze to Rourke. ”Keep it short,” she said.
Rourke nodded. ”Was there anyone you know of that would have a grudge against your mother?”
Mira shook her head slightly, not looking up from her glass. ”My father, her husband, is dead,” she said abruptly. She looked up at Rourke’s raised eyebrow. ”I just thought it would be your next question. You know, like on the crime shows.”
Rourke allowed himself a small smile. ”It’s good to know.” The phone on Amber’s desk rang and she picked it up. After a brief conversation she spoke to Mira. ”If you feel steady enough, you can go back now,” she said, one hand over the receiver.
Mira stood up putting the water glass on Amber’s desk. “Yes, I’ll be okay now,” she said, her voice firm.
Amber nodded and hung up the phone. “This way, then,” she said, leading Mira to a set of closed doors a few feet behind her desk. ”Don’t even think about it,” she said, giving Rourke a good-natured glare.
“Wasn’t going too,” Rourke said, holding up his hands. He fished a business card out of his pocket and leaned forward, handing it to Mira. “If you think of anything, you can call me at the number on there day or night.”
Mira took the car and shoved it in her jean’s pocket without looking. She gave a bob of her head, and then followed Amber into the back.
Rourke sat in his car for a good half an hour before he actually started it up. His fingers rapped the dash again and again as he tried to make sense of what he had learned. It was possible this psycho had rigged Grolinsky’s furnace to explode. But Grolinsky’s words bothered him. She claimed to have seen something by the light of fire she had been caught in. But if this psycho had actually stayed around for the explosion, he would be no better off than Grolinsky. ”Delirium, I guess,” Rourke said, finally starting his car.
As he did, his smartphone began to ring. Slipping his car back into park, he pulled it out of his pocket. An unknown number was calling him. Frowning, he answered the phone. ”This is Detective Carl Rourke.”
“Oh God, Detective, please come back!” a panicked voice on the other end gasped.
“Who is this?” Rourke asked undoing his seat belt.
“It’s Mira, Mira Grolinsky. I saw him. God, I saw him, the man that tried to hurt my mother.”
Rourke’s car was off, keys in hand, and he was already running full tilt to the hospital. One hand automatically went to his side, where a gun hung in its holster under his coat. ”Mira, where are you?” he asked as he approached the hospital.
“I’m in the waiting room,” she said, her voice taking on a hysterical edge. ”They won’t let me back in.”
Rourke bounded into the hospital. Mira was standing near the doors and she jumped as he entered. Tears streamed down her face and she was shaking. Amber was already in motion from around her desk and over to where they stood.
“What happened?” Rourke asked, putting his phone back away.
“She thought she saw someone back there,” Amber said, trying to put an arm around Mira. Mira shoved her away.
“I didn’t think I saw someone, I did see someone!” she nearly screeched. ”A tall man in a business suit!”
Rourke’s eyes widened. ”I need you to let me back there right now,” he said to Amber. ”That matches the description of a man leaving the scene of a crime Ms. Grolinsky witnessed.
Amber wavered and gave him an uncertain look. She sighed and beckoned for him to follow her. ”We have the entire area back here on camera. We called security when Mira raised the alarm, but they didn’t see anyone on the monitors.”
Rourke strode quickly behind Amber. He heard Mira fall into step behind him. A strong smell of antiseptic assaulted him as the doors opened before them. He passed a large cart full of linens, several curtained off areas, and a few criss-crossing hallways. They came to a stop by a bay of six separate alcoves. Amber pointed to the third one from the left. ”Ms. Grolinsky is in there.”
Rourke cautiously walked over and pushed the curtain softly aside. Grolinsky was swathed in bandages and hooked up to several IVs. The machines monitoring her vitals beeped softly. She did not appear to respond to his appearance. He let the curtain fall back. ”Where did you see him?” he asked Mira.
Mira pointed to the opposite end of the room. “I saw him peek around the wall there,” she said.
“How do you know he meant your mother harm?” he asked, walking over. It was a small bay where some extra medical equipment and IV bags were kept. The wall jutted out slightly, forming a corner someone skinny could fit behind without being seen.
“I– I don’t know,” Mira said, sounding suddenly uncertain. ”I just knew.” She blushed as she said it.
Rourke looked around the room, taking in the cameras in the ceiling. ”Can the cameras see this corner?” he asked.
“Actually, no,” Amber admitted. ”But if someone was there, they would have had to step out onto camera to leave. Or to get in to begin with.”
“Hunh,” Rourke grunted. He walked back over to Mira. ”Did you get a look at this guy’s face?” he asked.
For a moment, panic crossed Mira’s face. Then she shook her head wildly. “No, I didn’t get a good look.” She looked away from him then, back to her mother’s room.
Mira was hiding something and Rourke could tell it. But he felt it best not to push it for now. ”False alarm I guess,” he said, smiling at Amber. ”Sorry to trouble you.”
“No trouble at all,” Amber said, leading the both of them back out. ”But I think it’s for the best if we leave your mom to rest now,” she said glancing back at Mira.
Mira didn’t look up but she nodded. Rourke took one last appraising glance of her and then followed Amber back to the waiting room.
Rourke stretched as he walked into his office the next morning. ”Okay, first things first,” he muttered putting down his briefcase. ”I’ll get a list of Meredith’s neighbors and make some phone calls.” He opened the laptop on his desk and tapped the power button. It began to hum to life. As it did, Rourke slithered out from behind his desk and grabbed his coffee mug from the corner. He looked inside it and made a little face. Brown residue from the previous day’s coffee clung to the sides and bottom of the cup. ”Eh, I’ll just rinse it out,” he said as he walked to the break room.
As he ran some water into his cup his phone began to ring. Sighing, he put the mug down and pulled out his phone. A number he now recognized as Mira’s was on the screen. ”Hello, Detective Rourke,” he said answering the phone. He reached over for the coffee pot as he talked.
“Detective Rourke, it’s Mira Grolinsky,” Mira said. Her voice was tired. But it wasn’t the tired of no sleep. It was the tired of one who was too emotionally stunned to entirely accept what was going on around them. It was something, unfortunately, Rourke had heard a lot of in his line of work.
“Your mother died last night?” he said, gently. He placed the coffee pot down next to his mug.
“Yes,” Mira said a quaver in her voice. A pause. ”No, she didn’t die, she was killed. He did it, I know he did.”
“The man from last night?” Rourke asked. He leaned against the counter top, careful not to jostle the coffee pot.
“Yes. No. I mean–” She stopped. ”I need to talk to you in person.”
“That’s fine, Mira, that’s fine. Do you want to come to the precinct? Or do you want me to come to you?”
“Let me come down there. I have to get out of here,” she said.
“Alright, let me give you directions.” He gave her quick directions to precinct and then after re-assuring her again, he hung up the phone.
“Great, another dead witness,” he said, pouring the coffee into his cup. ”This has career ending case written all over it.”
Thirty minutes later, Mira was sitting down in front of his desk. There were no traces of tears on her face, but it looked like it had been freshly scrubbed with soap and water. Her cheeks were still a little red because of the violence of the washing, as were her eyes, likely from the violence of her tears. Rourke steepled his hands. ”What did you want to tell me, Mira?”
She looked down into her hands. ”You’re going to think I’m crazy.” She shook her head slightly. ”I think I’m crazy.”
Rourke glanced over at Connor’s book, “By the Fire’s Light” still sitting on his desk. His eyes widened slightly as he remembered the words Meredith had screamed as the ambulance attendants loaded her up. ”Why don’t I try to guess,” he said slowly, still looking at the book. ”The man you saw, you don’t think he had a face.”
Mira’s head snapped up, brown eyes meeting Rourke’s hazel ones. ”Yes,” she said. She stared at him for a moment longer. ”How did you know?”
“Well,” Rourke said, sliding the book over to Mira, “that’s going to take some explaining.” Briefly he narrated the events of the past few weeks to her. First the death of Connor, followed by Cassandra Brighton, then Ellen Kennedy, and now her mother Meredith Grolinsky.
Mira turned the book over in her hands. ”And so, this ‘Slender Man’ has been spotted in some way, shape or form at all the deaths?”
Rourke nodded, then paused. “Well, most of them. I haven’t interviewed anyone who saw him around Cassandra’s death yet. But she did die in a fire, like the victims in Connor’s books. Cassandra thought she saw a faceless man look out Connor’s window. Your mother saw what she thought was a tentacled man leaving Dr. Kennedy’s car. And now, you, you think you saw a faceless man shortly before your mother’s death.” He put a hand to his forehead. ”I don’t know how he got in or out without anyone seeing him, but I think you really did see your mother’s killer. I think we have a Slender fan on the loose, and we need to catch him before he gets anyone else.” He stood up and Mira looked up at him as he did so.
“You think I’m next,” she said simply. ”He goes after those who witness him and his crimes.”
“I think it’s possible,” Rourke said. ”I want to assign police protection to you for the time being.”
Mira looked down at the book again. Her hands wandered over the title. ”Hm,” she said. ”Do as you please.” She stood up and handed him the book again. ”I have to go arrange for my mother’s funeral.” Without another word she left the office.
Rourke took the book and put it back in a drawer. Turning to his laptop, he accessed the police network and found an address for Mira Grolinsky. He made a quick call and had a patrol car assigned outside of her house. Then he began to methodically call Meredith Grolinsky’s neighbors, hoping to find clues.
The sun had set once again before Carl Rourke got up from his desk and looked out his window. ”Another day another dead end,” he said as he shut down his laptop. He hated this. This killer had been two steps ahead of him from the beginning. Killers usually messed up eventually, but he didn’t want to have a double digit body count before he caught this guy. His smartphone trilled in his pocket. Taking it out he saw, again, Mira’s number. ”Well, third’s times the charm,” he said answering the phone. ”Yes, Mira, how can I help you?” he asked.
“I bought that book today, “By the Fire’s Light”,” she said, sounding oddly calm. ”And I’ve been doing some research and some thinking. And I think you’re half right. I think I did see my mother’s killer.”
“Okay?” Rourke said, confused. ”Did you have something new to tell me?”
“I think,” Mira said, slowly, “that you have one thing wrong. I don’t think you’re looking for a man.”
“Well, it could be a woman I guess,”Rourke said with a shrug.
Mira sighed. ”No, Detective.”
Rourke’s eyebrows knit. And then he realized what she was talking about. ”Mira,” Rourke said, as if he was talking to a small child. ”The Slender Man is not real. He is a fictional entity.”
“Was,” Mira said, still calm. ”We have summoned him and he has come.” He heard the scratching of something on the other end of the line, possibly a pen on paper. ”And what can be summoned can be dismissed.”
“Mira,” Rourke said, still slightly patronizing, “it’s been a long and hard day for you. Get some rest.”
“I will when I am done. You take care of yourself, Detective. Who knows, he might move after you next if this doesn’t work.” She hung up.
Rourke quickly called the officers in the patrol car currently in front of Mira’s house. After verifying she was at home, he left instructions for them to watch for any comings and goings to her house carefully. Then, finally, he left the office for his home, this time with his copy of “By the Fire’s Light” in his briefcase.
Rourke turned on his bedside light as he slipped into bed that night. He tried to focus on the book in his hands. He just felt like there was something he was missing. And it wasn’t that this Slender Man was real. Unable to concentrate on the book and his tiredness finally catching up with him, Rourke let the story fall from his hands as he closed his eyes, not even bothering to turn off the light.
Rourke dreamed. He was in a closely overgrown forest. Every which way he turned, he brushed up against tree branches and overly tall ferns. Something tall moved at the very edge of his sight sometimes, but he couldn’t tell what it was. He caught a good glance of it to his north (or at least he guessed north from the moss on the trees) and he began to move towards it.
Something touched his shoulder. Rourke turned around and found himself looking at young man with black hair. ”Detective Rourke,” he said, quietly. ”Do not follow it. It will come after you soon enough without you encouraging it.”
Rourke raised an eyebrow. ”Who are you?”
“Connor,” the young man said.
Rourke cocked his head. For some reason the name sounded familiar, but he couldn’t place why.
Connor shook his head. ”Don’t question, just listen,” he said, looking over his shoulder. ”I don’t have much time and this is important. Dr. Kennedy had the right idea. It runs on belief. But there is too much now for one person to deny it existence.” He shook Rourke slightly. ”Do you understand?”
Rourke shook his head. ”I don’t,” he said. He felt as if his mind had been wrapped in a blanket, warm and stifled. ”But I should.”
“Just remember then,” Connor said. ”One person is not enough. Nor two.” He sighed. ”We gave the nameless one a name,” he muttered. ”And he will not give it back.” He looked into Rourke’s eyes. ”It is easier to modify a story than to negate it,” he said. ”Tell Mira that. It’s too close to her now, I can’t reach her. I won’t be able to reach you after this.”
Rourke felt the hairs on the back of his neck raise. There was something behind him. He could feel it. He could see it in Connor’s terrified gaze. Connor’s hands tightened painfully around Rourke’s arms. Rourke tried to turn and see, but Connor held him fast.
“No,” Connor whispered. ”Don’t look, not yet.” He leaned in close and whispered in his ear. ”I am free, but others are not. I can’t help them, but you and Mira can. Please remember.”
Rourke nodded. ”I will.”
“Good,” Connor said. ”Now,” and his face suddenly twisted, “wake up!” he screamed, still leaned in close to Rourke’s ear.
Rourke jumped up in bed. ”Holy Mother of God,” he said, head in his hands. ”What was that?” Without thinking he was already reaching for the notebook he took with him on investigations. Quickly, he began to jot down the dream. A sense of urgency permeated him, a feeling that he could not let this dream slip from him.
Rourke shook his head as he transcribed. ”Lord, Rourke, you are losing it. Have a dream about Connor Russell, and don’t even realize its him in the dream. Some detective.” He glanced over at his clock. Two in the morning. Even though he thought he was a fool, the feeling of urgency did not leave Rourke. In fact, if anything, it was growing stronger. ”It’s too close to her now,” Connor had said. Slender Man was obviously what his dream Connor was referring to.
Rourke considered going back to bed, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep. Not unless he was sure Mira was okay. He pulled his smartphone off his nightstand and dialed Mira’s number. It rang five times and then went to voice mail. He hung up and stared at the floor for a moment. If it was only two in the morning the same patrol car would probably be in front of her house. He dialed through to the officers inside again. They quickly assured him no one had gone into or left the house.
Hanging up the phone and putting it back on the stand, Rourke grunted. ”That’s that.” He moved to turn of the bedside light he had left on when he went to sleep. His hand hung there as he stared at the light. The dream may have been just a dream, but Rourke had learned to trust his gut over the years. And his gut was telling him he had to get over to Mira Grolinsky’s house right now. He took in a deep breath, held it, and let it out. ”Fine,” he growled, getting up.
Mira lived in a small community about thirty minutes from his house. There were about fifteen house arranged around a good sized lake in the middle. A light breeze brought the smell of the water to Rourke as he climbed out of his car. He nodded to the officers in the patrol car as he walked over to it.
“Something wrong, Detective?” the young woman said inside. Rourke recognized her as Samantha Layton, a five year vet of the force.
“No, I don’t think so,” Rourke said. ”Ms. Grolinsky just called, said she had something she wanted to show me,” he said, lying through his teeth. He’d be damned if he told these officers that a bad dream had prompted him to come here. ”Keep an eye out, though, okay?”
“Will do,” Samantha said with a nod. She prodded the young man next to her. ”Hear that, Craig?” she said, as he started slightly.
Rourke turned from the car and walked up to the house. A motion sensor light on the garage went off as he walked up the driveway. His long black shadow stretched away behind him as he rang the bell on the house. He followed this up with several solid knocks. Silence met his ears as he waited. He put his head down and listened. No, it wasn’t quite silence. Just there on the edge of his hearing he thought he heard… crackling.
Whipping away from the door, he moved to the living room window. He peered through the partially open blinds and saw a soft orange glow inside. He drew in his breath.
Rourke turned back to the patrol car that Samantha was already climbing out of. “Call the fire department!” he yelled. ”And stay back!” Rourke pulled a Maglite flashlight out of his coat pocket. With a straight focused blow, he hit the corner of the living room window with the butt of the light. It fragmented and fell into little pebbles, designed to break in a way that wouldn’t leave shards that could cut people. He smashed the window again, leaving a hole big enough for him to climb through.
“Mira!” Rourke shouted, flipping on the light as he dragged himself through the window. A small trail of smoke was filtering into the large living room, past the two black leather couches and easy chair. He ran, following the trail and the orange glow towards the back of the house.
Rounding a corner, he spotted a glass sliding door that was now reflecting a wall of flames that danced in an almost impossible straight line in front of it. A table with a golden tablecloth shined brilliantly in the light. And there, in a corner behind the table, flames surrounding him, stood a tall man in a business suit, towering over the cowering Mira in a corner.
“Halt or I will shoot!” Rourke said, pulling out his gun and dropping the flashlight.
Mira looked out around the man, eyes wide and unbelieving. “Detective?” she said, fear and hope mingling in her voice.
The man turned to face Rourke, which was a funny choice of words since he had no face Rourke could see. Rourke leveled his gun on his extremely skinny center mass. ”Do not move!” he roared.
The man cocked his head and took a gliding step forward. And as he did, to Rourke’s astonishment, the flames danced and followed him, gliding perfectly. Training overcoming amazement, Rourke made sure Mira was not standing behind the man and then opened fire. He fired three shot point blank into the man’s chest.
He didn’t even stagger. He glided closer to Rourke. Rourke’s eyes widened. ”Bullet proof vest,” he gasped stepping back. ”But even with a bullet proof vest, he’d still feel the impact,” a small corner of his mind whispered back. Ignoring that part of his mind for now, Rourke leveled his gun at the man’s head. He fired. He watched as the bullet hit dead center where its face should be. It, because even Rourke had to admit, when a man was hit in the face with a bullet, the bullet didn’t stop and then slowly sink into the face without leaving a trace. A black tendril whipped from behind the thing’s back and Rourke realized he was about to die.
“No!” Mira screamed, dragging herself from the corner. She coughed as she ran past the thing, and grabbed Rourke’s arm. ”Don’t believe in him!”
The thing’s tendrils began to whip angrily as she spoke and it moved forward aggressively. Rourke looked around him. The flames had circled them, blocking the entrance back to the front door and to the sliding door that led down to the lake below. ”The lake,” Rourke said, an idea forming in his head. He grabbed Mira. ”Come on!” he said, whipping the table cloth off the table. He wrapped it around them and ran as the thing struck forward, its tendrils landing where he and Mira had been standing a mere second ago.
Rourke propelled himself and Mira through the flame wall in front of the sliding door. He felt the flames biting into the tablecloth, felt the heat searing into him. With a bounce he hit the glass door. In desperation, he ripped off the tablecloth, Mira helping him, as he grabbed the door. With a shove, it fell open, and he and Mira were running breakneck down the hill leading to the lake.
“It’s easier to modify a story than to negate it!” he said breathlessly to Mira, as they ran. ”What is the natural enemy of fire?”
Mira’s eyes widened in recognition. “Water!” she said, as they closed in on the lake. She started to turn to look back.
“No!” Rourke said, waving an arm to keep her attention. ”Don’t look back!” And then they were plunging into the water. It seeped into Rourke’s shoes and socks, making his feet feel like someone had placed weights in them. Rourke and Mira struggled forward, each helping the other, until they could no longer feel the lake bed beneath them and they were dog paddling in the water.
“We have to believe,” Mira said through chattering teeth looking back at the house.
“We won’t be enough,” Rourke said, looking back with her. The thing, the Slender Man, stood at the edge of the shore, the flames following him in a dancing swirling line down from the house. It stood, black suit melding into and out of the smoke. But it did not come forward. Sirens filled the air as a fire truck approached the house. The Slender Man tilted its head as if listening. And then, slowly, it seemed to melt into the very shadows made by the flame’s light.
Rourke felt Mira grasp his hand. ”Well, it was enough for now,” she gasped, trying to stay afloat with one hand.
“For now,” Rourke agreed, beginning to swim for shore.