The Black Shuck by Newton Webb
A Paranormal Horror Short Story: Confronted by her own demons, Tina embarks on a harrowing journey, navigating through guilt, fear, and the restless spirits of the wronged.
Free Horror Stories
The Black Shuck by Newton Webb
Free Horror Stories
Horror Story Compilations
RIVETING READS: 96 horror stories, including ‘Tales of the Macabre, Vol. 1’, ‘Tales of the Macabre, Vol. 2’, ‘Festival of the Damned’, ‘The Horror at Hargrave Hall’, ‘Smoke in the Sewers’, ‘The Ballad of Barnacle Bill’, ‘The Morrígan’, ‘The Black Fog’, ‘The Heir Apparent’, ‘The Platinum Service’.
The Black Shuck by Newton Webb
3rd March, 2005, London
Tina adjusted her ill-fitting nurse’s scrubs and plastered a sympathetic smile on her face. She pressed the doorbell for the third time.
The door creaked open. An elderly man peered out through the crack with rheumy eyes. “Who are you?” he muttered in a dry and crackly voice. A wisp of white hair fluttered in the afternoon breeze. Despite the late hour, he was in a tweed dressing gown.
“Mr Hawkins? I’m sorry if I disturbed you, but I’m part of a community outreach program. I am here to take your blood pressure and ask a few questions.” Tina held out a small card. “This is my number and contact details for my manager, in case you want to verify my identity.”
The man leaned closer, peering at Tina’s card. “You want to check my blood pressure?”
“If you don’t mind, sir. I won’t take long. It’s all routine.” Tina beamed at him.
He grunted and shuffled back, letting the door swing open.
She patted down a stray lock of hair and followed him in through the Victorian mansion’s door. The interior of the house was packed with peculiar antique goods. Exotic masks and bizarre African artefacts adorned the dark mahogany walls alongside the photos of a black German Shepherd dog.
“Sorry sir, but do you own a dog?” Tina asked nervously, looking at the photos which festooned every wall.
Mr Hawkins paused. “Not for ten years. He was a good boy. Sometimes it feels like he never left.”
“He looks lovely,” Tina said, her relief palpable. “You have a lot of interesting stuff. Are you a collector?”
Mr Hawkins turned and slowly lowered himself into an armchair. “Of memories. A different time for a different man.”
Tina pulled up a leather bound pouffe in front of him and pulled out the blood pressure kit. “Roll your sleeves up now, please, Mr Hawkins.” Tina waited patiently for him before running her tests.
“Well? Should I bother paying my council tax bill?” The old man grumped.
Tina winked at him. “You best had. You’ll outlive us all.” She pulled out a notepad. “Now, just a few questions about your lifestyle and then with your consent, I’ll do a quick patrol around the house to check for accessibility and risk factors.”
“Bloody nanny state.” Mr Harkins shook his head. “I’ve lived here for fifteen years. You don’t get to live to my age by living in a death trap.”
Tina paused, then awkwardly smiled. “I’m sorry, sir. If you aren’t comfortable with me, then I could always put in a request that another of my colleagues do it?”
“No, no, best get it over and done with. I’ll put the kettle on. That’s if I’m still allowed near boiling water.”
“Go ahead, I promise I won’t take long.” Tina gave an obsequious nod and left him prattling around the kitchen as she investigated the house. She wrinkled her nose at the musty scent of old clothes and even older books, but her mind was set on the task at hand. She had a job to do.
“Mick was right,” Lenny grinned, hefting Tina’s smartphone. “He was bloody right.” The screen showed a photo of an ancient cast iron safe.
Tina looked at Mick nervously. “This will be our last one then, right? If he is as wealthy as you say.”
Mick looked her up and down. “Yeah, it might well be. We do this job, then you can go your own merry way… if the contents of this safe pays off your debt to me, that is.”
“Thank you, Mick.”
“Oh, what’s the hurry, seeing as your tab is this close to being wiped clean?” Mick slid closer to her. “Why don’t you buy a little baggie, eh? A little bit of puff, a wee toot of Charlie?”
Tina shook her head. “I am trying to get clean. I want to be a better mother to my boys.”
Mick stroked her hair. “I know, I know. Well, how about this as a compromise? I give you this little bag here and you won’t have to pay me until after we empty that safe.” He brought himself next to her ear and whispered. “If you are really nice to me, and I do mean really nice. I’ll give it to you for half price.”
Tina bit her lip. “Okay, but this is the last baggy. I am going clean. I really am.”
“Of course you are.” Mick grinned as he directed her towards the sofa. “A real saint, you are.”
Mr Hawkin’s house was old, old even by Newgate standards. Ornate tribal masks dotted the stonework, leering faces that in the shadows of the night seemed to watch Tina. Their eyes followed her as she approached the front door.
“Are you sure he is gone?” she asked nervously.
“Yeah, yeah, he is gone.” He pulled the wrought-iron gate shut behind him, looking for any cameras watching them, but the security was as aged as the house, just a solid steel lock. He pulled out his picks and got to work.
Tina tapped her feet against the paving slabs, trying not to look at the painted masks, focusing instead on the cars parked outside on the street.
The lock clicked, and Lenny pushed the door open with grim satisfaction. “Well, where is it then?”
Tina followed him into the house. “In the backroom on the ground floor, he has an office to the left.”
“Good, I’ll meet you there. I’m just going to make sure the house is empty.” Lenny stalked up the stairs. The light from Tina’s torch glinted off a large chef’s knife.
Tina gripped his arm, only to have her hand shaken off. “Wait. What are you doing?”
Lenny ignored her and paced up the stairs.
Tina followed him, her heart racing in her chest. “Lenny, you said the old man was out.”
“Shut up, I’m just making sure.”
“Is there someone there?” Mr Hawkin’s thin, reedy voice came from the master bedroom. Tina watched Lenny advance towards the sound, his body language exuding a grim purpose.
She backed away to the top of the stairs.
Oh god, no.
“Whoever you are, I am armed and I’m calling the police.”
Tina knelt, clutching the ornate wood bannister. She could hear the noises from the bedroom. She could hear Mr Hawkin’s screams cut short, leaving behind a wet gurgle.
Lenny emerged in front of her, his gloves coated in dark blood. His eyes were cold in the torchlight, a sneer on his lips.
“You said he was out.” Tina wailed.
“So, I was wrong.” He looked down at her cowering form with disgust. “I told you to wait by the safe.”
Lenny’s boot nudged her hard and Tina rose to her feet, clutching to the balustrade as she half walked, and half pulled herself down the stairs. The vision of Mr Hawkin’s face flickered through her mind. Old, vulnerable, alive. The photo of a black German Shepherd lining the walls seemed to watch her, judging her as she moved.
“Move it, come on.” Lenny said, following behind her as she led him to the safe. “Stop that whimpering, Mick said he made his money in South Africa. I doubt he got all those diamonds feeding the homeless. He deserved what he got.”
Tina led him to the safe. Lenny pulled out his kit and got to work on it. It took him nearly half an hour to crack the lock as he methodically worked his way through the layered defences.
“Done it!” Lenny exclaimed with satisfaction as the door swung open. “That lock was a bastard.” He froze. “What the…”
Tina peered over his shoulder. The safe was empty except for a ceramic jar with a screw-top lid.
Lenny unscrewed the jar. “Where are the fecking diamonds?” Finding only a white powder, he poked around in it with his finger.
“Lenny, it’s cocaine.” Tina said, her breath caught in her throat.
“Really?” Lenny looked again at the jar. It was labelled ‘Charlie’. “The old man didn’t look like a coke fiend.” He hefted the jar. “There is a lot in here… It’s not diamonds, but it’s worth a bit of scratch.” He pulled a credit card out from his wallet and racked up two lines, then rolling up a tenner, passed it to Tina. “Go on then, give it a go.”
Tina took the note and looked at the line in front of her.
This is my last line. After tonight’s horror, I deserve it.
Tina snorted up the line and leaned her head back, waiting for the familiar rush.
“Give me that.” Lenny took the note off her and hoovered up the second line.
“It’s been too heavily cut. I’m not getting any buzz from it.” Tina rubbed her nose clean.
“I can’t sell this shit. It’s crap.” Lenny tossed it back into the safe. “Where is his fecking loot?”
“What about all these statues? Could we sell them?” Tina picked up a stone fertility statue.
“Who too? How do we know which of these are worth money and what isn’t? Spread out, I want gold, silver or jewels. Stuff that can be melted down and sold.” Lenny started rummaging through the shelves, knocking over the worthless ornaments. “Bloody useless tat. Why are you just standing there? Look!”
Tina was staring at a mounted photo of a black German Shepherd, there was a nameplate under it.
She pointed. “Lenny, that wasn’t drugs.”
“What?” He marched over and looked in disgust at the photo. “We snorted fecking ashes? Oh, for feck’s sake. That is rank”
“Stop that and get to work. You’ve hoovered up worse and paid good money for the privilege.” Lenny looked around. “Nothing good in here. I’m going back to the bedroom. You look through the downstairs.”
Tina gripped her arms tightly, swearing to herself, before obediently looking through the shelves.
This is my last job.
She heard the sound of breathing in her right ear and spun round to see nobody.
It’s the stress. Let’s just get this over with.
4th March, 2005, London
Tina sat at home. She should clear away the remains of last night’s kebab, she should cook something, she should have a shower.
She should be doing anything but sitting on the floor and shaking.
The radio was on loud to distract her, but she could still feel the sound of heavy breathing in her right ear. Everything she had tried had failed, but that maddening inhuman breath persisted.
There must have been something in those ashes, a psychotropic substance. Or I’ve got a fever.
Closing her eyes, she leaned against the wall, trying to ignore the breathing, exhaustion overcoming her as she felt herself drifting into sleep.
The breathing changed. A wolf-like growl sounded, sending a rush of adrenaline through her body. She lurched to her feet.
I need something to knock me out. If I can sleep through it, the drugs will wear off.
Tina hired an Uber to take her to Lenny’s.
He’ll sort me out. I just need something to knock me out.
It was a short journey. The driver gave her the side eye in the rearview mirror. Tina paid him no heed. She left the taxi with a mumbled thanks and shuffled across the concrete to Lenny’s door, climbing up the stairwell to find his council flat.
She rang the doorbell, then banged twice. Sliding down with her back against the door, she waited.
Her foot tapping against the floor, she rose up and pounded again on the door.
“Lenny!” she shouted. She peered through the letterbox. The window was ajar. It had a safety lock to keep it from being wrenched open. As she tugged on the windowpane it proved more cosmetic than practical. Pulling with both hands she easily snapped the cheap plastic.
Clambering into his kitchen, she scrabbled, half climbing and half falling over the piles of dirty dishes. Tina grimaced at the filth. The scent of marijuana competed and failed against the sharp scent of something foul. Holding her hand to her mouth, she explored the house, trying to find Lenny.
Muffling a scream, she found him.
He was dead on the sofa, a half-eaten pizza in front of him, and a crack pipe on the floor from where it had fallen. But it was his face, his face that terrified her more than anything. His eyes were wide, his mouth open as if he had died of fright.
Tina backed up away from the corpse.
I can’t go yet. I need his drugs.
He had sold enough to Tina for her to know where he kept them. She pulled the DVD’s clear off the shelf, exposing a fake panel. She tugged at it. Behind it lay a plastic case full of baggies.
As feckless as he was at cleaning, he kept his drugs well organised. Tina found herself a baggy of Rohypnol. A sedative that would put her out and suppress her memories of that hateful night.
In front of her lay his stash of cocaine.
This might just be withdrawal, an auditory hallucination. A little line will sort me out.
She gave it a long, lingering look. Just a little line, not a full one, just enough to smooth her out.
“No,” she muttered. “Never again.” She took the baggie of Rohypnol and fled the house, closing the door shut behind her.
The breathing still sounded in her right ear. It was a constant, maddening huffing next to her, sounding as if it was right against the side of her skull.
She clambered down to the roadside and summoned a taxi home.
Tina lay in bed, her arms wrapped around her pillow, shaking as she waited for the Rohypnol to kick in. Three times now, as she felt herself losing consciousness, the huffing had turned to a growl, and she had startled awake, eyes open and streaming tears of frustration.
“Let me sleep!” she shouted in rage and frustration at the ceiling.
The heaviness in her head started to settle once more and a wave of relief flowed through her as the growling turned to barking. The drugs and exhaustion combined as a powerful cocktail, letting her pass out unconscious. As the black velvet of sleep embraced her, she smiled.
The world seemed different. There was a smoke-like haze around her and she stumbled with a childlike innocence. Her fingers played across the spines of old leather-bound books without reading the titles. She stopped to admire an ancient weapon of some kind, a wooden mace decorated with feathers.
I’m in Mr Hawkin’s front room.
Hearing a low rumbling growl, she looked around to see Mr Hawkins sat in a faded armchair watching her, his eyes narrowed accusingly. Beside him, a black German Shepherd stood, every muscle in his body quivering as if poised to leap.
She took a step back in fright, terror seeping through the brain fog.
“You lied to me,” he said, looking her in the eye. “I trusted you.” He held up his hand. “Stay,” he ordered the dog, who continued to wait, his muscles shaking with repressed adrenaline.
“I am sorry. I didn’t have a choice. It was Lenny’s fault. He made me do it. I owed him money.” Tears ran down Tina’s face.
“I was murdered in my own home—” He snapped, bristling with anger. “—Stay!” He repeated to his dog. The dog’s eyes narrowed with anticipation.
“That wasn’t me, though. Lenny said you weren’t home.” Tina sobbed, guilt and fear wracking her body. “I didn’t kill you!”
“I suppose you’re right. Taking that into account, I shan’t kill you either.”
“Thank you, oh thank, I promise I will change, I promise—” Tina started.
“Release.” Mr Hawkins said.
The black dog lunged forward. His jaws wide. His teeth aimed at her throat.
If you enjoyed this free short story, then please consider Tales of the Macabre, Vol. 1. My first collected works on Amazon containing sixteen short stories and novellas by Newton Webb.