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Authors: Daniel I. Russell

Come Into Darkness

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COME INTO DARKNESS

Daniel I. Russell

FIRST EDITION

Come Into Darkness

Published by Skullvines Press

an imprint of KHP Publishers

khpbooks.com

This book is a work of fiction.

Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

This work, including all characters, names, and places:

Copyright 2011 Daniel I. Russell

All rights reserved.

Cover art Copyright 2011 K.H. Koehler

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of both the publisher and author.

For Sherie

Acknowledgements

I’d like to thank editors Jerrod Balzer and S.D. Hintz for taking on this novella at the time they did. It really meant a lot. To the porn actors who always had time for my research questions…despite them being quite boring (the public knows little on porno admin). To the crazy old man in Southport with the ill-placed colostomy bag (was the theory). To the SAW franchise for making many, many sequels after this was written and stealing my ideas (lol!). To my family who have to put up with me while I write these horrid little things and finally to you, the reader. Welcome to Metus House. I’ll be your guide for the evening.

1

By torchlight, Mario turned another page of the comic. He stared at the garish, full colour picture of the astronaut eaten alive by black, squat aliens. Snouts, like those of anteaters, clung and snapped at the intrepid hero. Mario quickly turned the page again, careful not to touch any of the creatures directly. The danger remained that one might escape the ink and paper and rip a chunk from his finger.

The first footstep sounded on the stairs.

He snatched a breath and gripped the duvet tighter. His gaze fixed through the open bedroom door and onto the cream wallpaper of the landing. He had nightmares. Nightmares of things in the dark, nightmares of figures in the light. He dropped the comic.

“Mar-io!”

Another step, followed by a hard thud.

He imagined the shape on the stairs, staggering upwards, slapping a wide hand against the wall for balance.

Please, he prayed. Not tonight. Please not tonight.

“Mar-io!”

He squeezed his eyes shut. Blood pounded in his ears in a steady throb. The comic slid off the bed and flopped open on the carpet.

Please. Go to bed. Go to bed!

Another heavy step…

*****

The cab bounced, passing over a pothole.

“Roads are a state in this part of the town. Council should do something about it. Bloody disgrace!”

Mario blinked, pulled from his memory.

Rain poured down, drumming on the car roof.

“Get all sorts in the back of this cab,” said the driver, a bald man with a cockney accent. He reminded Mario of Bob Hoskins. Hoskins used to advertise for British Telecom. It was good to talk, and the driver never stopped. “Every job imaginable. We all need to get around, don’t we? Had that woman, what’s her name, that singer? You know the one. Always pissed and in the papers. Had her in here last week. Threw up on the seat, but it’s been cleaned since. What is it you do then? If you don’t mind me asking?”

Mario rubbed his hands together to generate some warmth. He wished the driver would run his heater as much as his mouth.

“Excuse me?”

“What do you do?”

“Oh, I’m a p…” Mario cleared his throat. “I’m an actor.”

The driver chuckled and glanced into his rear-view mirror.

“Actor, eh? Been in anything I’d have seen? You know, movies and the whatnot?”

“Maybe,” said Mario, bored. He’d avoided the subject so far. “How much farther?”

“Funny you should ask that.” The driver brought the cab to a stomach-lurching stop. “Here we are. Metus House.” He flicked on the overhead light. The small black box on the dashboard showed twenty-five pounds in glowing red digits.

Mario wiped the condensation from the glass and peered outside. Raindrops streamed down the window, distorting the streetlights to wide golden suns. The three doorways in sight were dark and unmarked.

“You sure this is the place?” asked Mario, glaring out.

“No doubt about it,” said the driver. “You gave me the address, I brought you here. Are
you
sure this is the place?”

Mario squinted, barely making out the street sign fixed to the side of the Victorian building.

Metus House.

“This is it,” he said. “Must be.” He fished his wallet from his pocket and handed over three ten-pound notes. “Keep the change.”

“Much obliged,” said the driver. “Acting must pay all right, eh? Have a good night.”

“I will,” said Mario and zipped up his coat. He opened the car door and stepped into the night.

Wind snatched the car door and slammed it shut.

“Jesus,” said Mario. He snapped his hand back and pulled his collar tighter about his face. The cold kissed his cheeks with needle lips, and the breeze ruffled his shaggy dark fringe. He shivered.

The cab indicated and slowly pulled away from the curb.

Mario turned and glanced around, eager to be out of the stinging rain. He headed for the nearest doorway, a weather-beaten porch supported by stone pillars. Ducking underneath, he shook the drops of water from his body and exhaled. It steamed in a dragon’s breath.

“Shit.”

Mario glanced up and down the entrance. His agent had assured him this was the real deal, the place he’d heard rumours about. He expected a hotel at least. Something with the lights and glamour of the regular London hangouts. No one else occupied the street: not a photographer, not another celebrity, no one. It reminded Mario of law buildings closed for the night. He’d had his fair share of lawyers since his childhood and sat in enough Counsel chambers. He shivered again. “Fucking joke.”Mario forced a hand into the pocket of his tight designer jeans and removed his phone. He read a message sent from his girlfriend, another one desperate for a big break in the business. She’d wished him a goodnight and asked if she could come next time.

“Fat chance,” he said and deleted the message. He used speed dial to call his agent and held the phone to his ear. “Come on…”

“You’ve reached the number of Oliver Stenson-“

Mario moaned and waited for the voicemail message to end.

“Olly? Where the hell have you sent me? I’m stood out here freezing my balls off in the pouring rain! If I can’t work next week because I’m ill, you can sort it out with the fucking studio.” He cancelled the call. “Tosser.”

He searched for Jonno’s number. His assistant might know where his goddamn agent had got to. Probably Soho. Again. Sex seemed to run rampant at every level of this business. Before he had a chance to dial, a click sounded behind him, and his shadow slowly stretched away, framed in a golden light.

“Ah, another guest. I thought I heard a voice out here.”

Mario peered over his shoulder.

The open door spilled light out across the dim porch. A short, elderly man stood hunched within. He studied Mario from underneath a wild mop of grey hair, and a moustache sat on his lip in a similar state. He twisted a strand between thumb and forefinger.

“Are you coming inside then, Mr. Fulcinni? Or would you rather stay out here in the rain?”

Despite the chill, heat rose in Mario’s face.

“I don’t use that name anymore,” he said. “No one calls me by that name.”

“Of course, of course,” said the man. He released his moustache and gave a dismissive wave. “Are you coming inside?”

Mario stood his ground. “Who are you?”

“My name,” said the man, slightly bowing, “is Worth. I’m your host for the evening.”

“My host,” said Mario and snorted. “Then this
is
the right place.”

“Indeed it is. If you’d like to step inside.”

Mario replaced his phone inside his pocket and started forward. “To be honest, this isn’t what I expected. I mean, am I the only one here?”

Worth shook his head. “Everyone else is waiting inside. You’re late. The invite said nine’ o’clock, but it’s no bother. After all, you pay us, so we can wait…”

Mario nodded.

Worth stepped aside, allowing him access. Mario walked inside the tiny entrance. Another set of heavy doors, wooden with worn varnish, barred his way.

“There’s just a few things we need to address before we begin,” said Worth and closed the outer doors. Two bulbs in ornate brass fittings provided a gentle light. “It shouldn’t take long. I’m sure you wish to start immediately.”

“Start?” said Mario. “What is it I’m supposed to be starting? Olly wasn’t exactly clear when he set me up for this.”

“Why, start the best night of your life, of course!” said Worth. “That’s what they all come here for.”

“All?” asked Mario and raised an eyebrow.

“They all end up here at some point,” said Worth, smiling. “Pop stars, writers, lawyers, athletes, stockbrokers. Anyone that can afford us, and anyone that wants more, Mr. Fulcinni.”

“I told you-"

Worth bowed, deepening his hunch. Mario expected his back to snap.

“Once again, my apologies,” said the old man, his voice barely a whisper, like the last gasp of a dying man. “My memory isn’t what it used to be. Would you prefer I use your stage name?”

Mario snorted. “I don’t think that would be appropriate for such an occasion. Just call me Mario.”

“Indeed.”

The entrance brought on a slight claustrophobia. The close odour of Worth, cheap aftershave and mothballs, seemed to clog Mario’s sinuses. He expected the old codger to wear a new suit at least. He must make enough money…

“I expect you are keen to proceed,” said Worth. “Like I said, just a few matters to attend to first and then we can join the party.” He cleared his throat. “We like to know what brings each of our guests to our door. Why, exactly, are you here, sir?”

A trickle of sweat escaped Mario’s armpit and meandered down his side. It soaked into his shirt, tucked inside his jeans. The tiny room suddenly felt hot, from coming in out the cold, he presumed.

“The usual, I suppose,” he replied.

“The
usual
?” said Worth and grinned. “How can you know what the
usual
is? Our guests are sworn to secrecy. I assure you that no one has ever told you their reason for visiting Metus House. In fact, I’m sure no one has ever told you they’ve even been here! Remember, you didn’t find us, sir. We’ve found you.”

The heat flushed in Mario’s face once more, and he fought the sudden urge to punch Worth. The ancient geezer seemed to be enjoying the secrets and mystery he held. Mario had paid, the place had taken the funds from his account that very morning, so why was he faced with this decrepit man and his riddles and endless talk?

“Can we go inside yet?” Mario demanded. “I need a drink.”

“There’s time, lots of time for frivolity soon. First, tell me why you’re here.”

Mario sighed and swept his hair from his eyes.

“Fine. You really want to know, old man?”

Worth’s smile widened, curtained by his ragged moustache.

“Because I’m bored, okay? I’m sure you’ve done your research and know all about me. What I do. What I’ve been through. My…lifestyle over the last few years.”

“Indeed we do,” said Worth. “Quite the rollercoaster ride you’ve been on, if you don’t mind me saying so! Although, I have to add, you and your agent did a grand job of keeping it out of the papers. The British press can be such vultures. I mean, imagine the headlines,
pornstar in overdose scare
. They would have had a field day.”

“Shut up about that,” said Mario, fists clenching. “Shut the
fuck up
.”

Worth’s eyes sparkled. “And then the rest of it would have come out, right, Mr. Fulcinni? The past? Dragged out for all to see? I’m sure your father would have enjoyed the attention-“

Grabbing him by the shoulders, Mario forced Worth back, hard against the wall. The tangled bush of grey hair bounced against the gold and red paper.

“Don’t you ever,
ever
talk about that,” Mario screamed into the old man’s face. “You hear me? I’ll break all your fucking teeth if you ever…”

Worth, looking unfazed, stared back. “Boredom breeds frustration, sir,” he said. “Please control yourself. No need to throw it all away now.”

“Take it back,” Mario spat. “Right now!”

“Okay, I apologise,” said Worth, still not breaking eye contact. “You have my word the subject will not be raised by me again.”

Shoving him one more time, Mario released the guide and stepped back.

“Open these doors,” he said. “I’m out of here. I didn’t pay to have the piss taken out of me and the past dragged up. Stick your fucking party.”

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