SEMI-FINALIST – 20

Name: J.C. Martin
Title: SOUND OF THE UNDERGROUND
Genre: Crime & psychological suspense

Dan Stanton is starting to regret his sixth pint of lager.

I can tell that from the way he stares at me, from the way he swipes at his beer-glazed eyes, as if rubbing them hard enough would erase my image from his sight. In mere seconds, his face morphs through an entire range of human expressions: the glimmer of recognition, the flicker of disbelief, the flash of confusion. And then, in his rheumy, red-rimmed eyes, I see the spreading, consuming cancer that is dread.

And fear.

Yet, a tiny part of Dan Stanton’s mind, perhaps a small patch of brain cells not drowned in alcohol, seem to be convincing him that I am a hallucination.

I watch his broad, retreating back as he staggers into a late-night crowd, saying their soppy goodbyes beneath the glow of the familiar London Underground logo. The crowd enters the station, and I can just make out his bald, shining dome amid the sea of commuters. The shiny scalp crosses the ticket barriers, but I make no attempt to follow. Not yet.

I know where he is heading.

Stanton disappears from view as he descends the escalator leading down to the sub-level platforms. It almost looks as if he is sinking through the ground into the bowels of Hell.

And Hell is definitely where the son-of-a-bitch is going.

The moment he is out of sight, I move.

The hunt has begun.

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