Meet Chad. Wait—he’s in the middle of something.
Chad stopped dead still. His feet rooted themselves to the broken pavement as he turned his ear toward the sound, straining to assure himself he had heard it. All he heard now was the whooshing of passing traffic coming in short intermittent bursts down the alley. Chad’s jaw clenched. He looked about for some means of defense. Old Faithful, the rusty trashcan lid. Of course. As he picked it up, the lid fell away and dropped with a clang to the ground, leaving the weather-beaten handle in his grip. Old, yeah. Faithful? Not so much. Chad tossed the handle aside.
Suddenly he heard it—that haunting laugh, muﬄed behind the mask, that had dogged his steps day in and day out. Chad spun toward the head of the alley, then back again, peering intently into the shadows. Nothing. Come on, Chad. Did you hear it or not? His gaze darted up the walls of the high-rise buildings that towered up on either side. There was no sign of his enemy. It had probably just been his mind its cruel games with him again.
Then Chad remembered why he had entered the alley in the first place. He listened, a little perplexed, but he couldn’t hear the small weeping voice any more. Cautiously, Chad moved farther into the shadows.
“Hello!” he called as loudly as he dared. “Anyone here? Do you need help?”
A couple more steps into the dark. “Hello? Anybody?”
Still no answer.
Then he heard the sound again—a low whirring. This time there could be no mistake. He was here. Chad crouched, unsure of his best defense. His head was on a swivel, trying to catch a glimpse of his assailant in the dark. The street at the head of the alley was at least a hundred feet away. He preferred not to make a dash for it until he knew the location of his enemy.
Suddenly, he heard the hollow manic laugh again, but this time it was much nearer, terribly close now, and bearing down on him. Half by instinct, Chad dove aside.