So here's Part 4 of this special free short story mini-series – and it's the final installment.

If you haven't read parts 1-3 yet, then hey, I'm not judging you.  What you do in your own time is between you and your goat.

Anyway, here are some links to the earlier parts:

I really hope you're enjoying the mini-series.  I know it's a bit more work all around, but I really don't like reading long stories in a single massive blog post, so I hope you feel the same.

Here's the last and final episode.  I dedicate this to the wonderfully supportive Anita, and I sincerely hope it doesn't disappoint.

Here's the last part of your free short story mini-series:

Safety – Part 4

“No!”  Mark's Dad dashed down the stairs as fast as he dared in the darkness.  He held his phone out in front of him, using it as a flashlight, the white LED making his bare feet look deathly pale against the grim concrete.  He gasped for breath as he ran, the chill, dank air in the stairwell catching in his chest.  And between breaths, he shouted for all he was worth, his hoarse screams blistering the back of his throat.  “Stop!” he yelled.  “Don't shoot!”

They can't hear me, he thought.  I'm too far away, too slow, too late to do any good.  And what the hell was he doing anyway?  It was stupid to run down the stairs in the dark, and madness to run toward the danger.  He should've stayed in the flat, bolted the door, kept his family safe.  But he couldn’t do that.  He couldn't let this tragedy unfold.  I've got to stop it, he thought, before someone gets hurt.  And that didn't bear thinking about.  Because if someone was hurt, then Mark would be to blame.  And he couldn't let a stupid mistake destroy his son's childhood.  He couldn't stand by and let someone's blood be on Mark's hands.

He jumped down onto the next landing, grabbed at the metal handrail and hurled himself around the corner.  His leg muscles burned, but he couldn't stop, couldn’t slow down, not now.  He pushed himself forward, his heart hammering in his chest, his blood whistling in his ears.  And then suddenly, there was an explosion of echoes: the boom of slammed doors, the rumble of heavy boots.  He stopped, frozen on the edge of the landing, and stared down into the black void of the stairwell.  What the hell am I doing here? he thought.  And then the darkness was carved apart, sliced open by a wavering array of bright beams; they flew along the walls then picked out a dark shape, the shape of a man, and homed in.  A barrage of rough voices yelled a chorus commands.

Mark's Dad opened his mouth to shout.  And in that moment, the power surge protection relays recovered from the direct lightning strike, and automatically reset.  There was a sudden flash, and the stairwell was bathed in dazzling light.

***

In the narrow beam of his scope-mounted light, Sergeant Bentley saw the target's face contort with horror.  He took no notice of the man's frantic foreign shouting and watched his hands.  He had to know if the target was armed.  Stop waving your bloody arms about, he thought.  And then, there it was: the gleam of black metal in the target's hands.  Bentley's finger tensed on the trigger.

But something wasn't right.  Something didn't add up.  He shouted his warning again and glanced at the target's face.  Did he match the photo they'd been shown?  No, Bentley thought.  It isn't him.

And suddenly, the stairwell lights flashed into life.  Bentley squinted into the light, and the target brought his hand up in front of him, thrusting the black metal weapon toward him, and Bentley couldn't take the chance, couldn't risk the safety of his men.  So he did what he had to do.  He did the only thing he could.

***

And high above them, standing helpless on the landing, Mark's Dad buried his face in his hands and wept.

** end of Safety **

So did you enjoy it? Anything you did or didn't like? Feel free to leave comments.

If you fancy the whole story in one doc, I'll be handing it out to newsletter subscribers, so sign up below:

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I'll also be posting up the audio version and maybe a youtube video as soon as I can find time to do a proper job of it.  If you know someone who'd like this story, please share it with them.

Safety will be part of my new collection of dark short stories, which will be coming out soon.  If you'd like to be one of the first to read it, you can get a free Advanced Reader Copy with just a click or two:

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Thanks in advance for sharing, commenting and being kind enough to hang around.

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