AT TEN O’CLOCK on a moonless September evening, Chris Schneider slipped toward a long-abandoned building on the eastern outskirts of Berlin, his mind whirling with dark images and old vows.
Late thirties, and dressed in dark clothes, Schneider drew out a .40 Glock pistol and eased forward, alert to the dry rustle of the thorn bushes and goldenrod and the vines that engulfed the place.
He hesitated, staring at the silhouette of the building, recalling some of the horror that he’d felt coming here for the first time, and realizing that he’d been waiting almost three decades for this moment.
Indeed, for ten years he’d trained his mind and body.
For ten years after that he’d actively sought revenge, but to no avail.
In the past decade, Schneider had come to believe it might never happen, that his past had not only disappeared, it had died, and with it the chance to exact true payback for himself and the others.
But here was his chance to be the avenging angel they’d all believed in.
Schneider heard voices in his mind, all shrieking at him to go forward and put a just ending to their story.
At their calling, Schneider felt himself harden inside. They deserved a just ending. He intended to give it to them.
By now he’d reached the steps of the building. The chain hung from the barn doors, which stood ajar. He stared at the darkness, feeling his gut hollow and his knees weaken.
You’ve waited a lifetime, Schneider told himself. Finish it. Now.
For all of us.
Schneider toed open the door. He stepped inside, smelling traces of stale urine, burnt copper, and something dead.
His mind flashed with the image of a door swinging shut and locking, and for a moment that alone threatened to cripple him completely.
But then Schneider felt righteous vengeance ignite inside him. He pressed the safety lever on the trigger, readying it to fire. He flicked on the flashlight taped to the gun, giving him a soft red beam with which to dissect the place.
Boot prints marred the dust.
Schneider’s heart pounded as he followed them. Cement rooms, more like stalls really, stood to either side of the passage. Even though the footprints went straight ahead, he searched the rooms one by one. In the last, he stopped and stared, seeing a horror film playing behind his eyes.
He tore his attention away, but noticed his gun hand was trembling.
The hallway met a second set of barn doors. The lock hung loose in the hasp. The doors were parted a foot, leading into a cavernous space.
He heard fluttering, stepped inside, and aimed his light and pistol into the rafters, seeing pigeons blinking in their roost.
The smell of death was worse here. Schneider swung his light all around, looking for the source. Large rusted bolts jutted from the floor. Girders and trusses overhead supported a track that ran the length of the space.
Corroded hooks hung on chains from the track.
The footprints cut diagonally left, away from the doorway. He followed, aware of those bolts in the floor and not wanting to trip.
Schneider meant to look into the girders again, but was distracted by something scampering ahead of him. He crouched, aiming the gun and light at the noise.
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