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By Hook or by Crook
Crimson rain, a gray black sky, and a pale, silver crescent moon. That is all that keeps Jack company nowadays. Despite that, Jack never feels lonely, because everything talks to him; the trees, gently waving in the forest, the stars that twinkle overhead, his door, as it greets him inside, and even his clothes, his black overcoat especially, beckoning with its glinting brass buttons. Whistling a cheery tune, he wipes his hardy leather boots at the welcome mat, striding confidently into his new home. And what a home it was, for it had a warm, crackling fire, a perfect old armchair for his old, aching bones, splendid paintings all over the walls… It was enough to make him rapturous just to be inside! He plops down on the overstuffed armchair in front of the fireplace with a contented sigh, just about to close his eyes when he notices a bit of grime on his hook, his lovely, lovely hook. Irritated, he wipes it off with a handkerchief from the coffee table, conveniently placed at the left of the armchair. No, not the armchair, his armchair. He opens his mouth in a sickly grin, raising his hooked hand high in the air, murmuring, “Now that I am at home, time to bring home a housewarming gift!”
“What do you mean he escaped?” Dr. Jonathan Wilson said skeptically. “You locked a senile, old man in a completely bare room surrounded by armed guards and video cameras, and you expect me to believe that he escaped. On his own.”
The guards suddenly seem to have a deep interest in looking at their boots as they avoid Dr. Wilson’s enraged and indignant gaze. An awkward silence settled throughout the room, until one brave soul managed to growl in a deep, gravelly, and incredibly sarcastic voice, “Well, it’s not our fault you took in Jack the Ripper!”
Though Dr. Wilson was much smaller and weaker than he was, the rebellious guard still winced when the doctor smacked him across the face, his eyes full of fury. “Lies! Old wives’ tales! We shall not say that name in this facility! ” With his jaw set in a grim line, he said, “I have been head of Clarkson Mental Hospital for nearly ten years now, and I will not have it be made a laughingstock! Since you goons completely and utterly failed to guard even a helpless, impotent, doddering old man, I have no need for you.” Drowning out their protests, he roars, “You are dismissed!” as police officers, detectives, and strangely enough, reporters, came rolling in.
Thomas and Kate both raucously sing the last lyrics of their song in unison, laughing uproariously in Tom’s red Lamborghini as they cruise along the countryside. Just as their lips form the last verse of the song however, an incredibly excited voice whispers on the radio, “Breaking news! An incredibly adept murderer has escaped from the Clarkson Mental Hospital on Route 12…” Kate’s face suddenly became ashen gray as she leans in to listen to the rest of the message, the song completely forgotten. “…The authorities are investigating it now, but be forewarned! This murderer is incredibly dangerous and will leave no witnesses! His physical appearance is this; he is a male with mismatched brown and blue eyes, and a hook for one of his arms. He is also…” Here, the connection appeared to be interfered with as Kate could just barely make out a faint garbled voice saying, “What are these reporters here for? We don’t need nosy reporters publicizing the case! Security! Security!” before the message was completely cut off by static.
Kate bit her lip worriedly, looking back at Tom. Tom hardly seemed interested in the slightest however, as he faced the horizon with a faraway look in his eyes and fingers drumming on the steering wheel. He probably hadn’t heard at all! Just as she was about to shriek something unintelligible at him, something about braking and going back home, he turned his face towards her whilst smiling a reassuring grin, saying, “Don’t worry, Katie. I locked the doors. We’re perfectly safe!”
This time, Kate couldn’t keep it back and screamed, “Are you insane?! We have to get back home! Right now! Are you trying to get us killed?”
Resolutely, Tom said, a bit miffed, “Look, Kate… We only drove here so that we can have a good time together. I respect your opinion and all, but we’re almost there now. We don’t necessarily have to go all the way back now, do we? Come on, be reasonable!”
To that, Kate says mockingly, “Oh, just like how reasonable the killer is going to be when he finds us if we stay here, right? Moron!”
The argument goes on for a long time, until it has been long since the sun has set over the horizon, at times growing so fierce that it seemed likely the couple would kill each other before the murderer ever appeared. Just as the sky was glossing itself over with a constant black covering all of the purple, pink, and orange of the dying sky however, Tom finally had to admit defeat and reluctantly began the drive home. At this point though, the way home was hopelessly dark, and conditions became even worse when shrouds of thick fog began closing in on the road, as if nature itself was mockingly taunting them. The whole journey home, Tom managed to give Kate all the scowls and dirty looks he could think of, which Kate returned tenfold. Things really reached its peak though when they realized they had completely lost their way.
Tom muttered a string of something completely indiscernible, probably curses. He forces himself to look at Kate, who he blames for the nightmare journey home. Kate looks back at him with a scowl that could have seared through solid metal.
“Well, what do we do now, genius?”
Because he was in an ill temper, he snapped, “If I’m not mistaken, this was your idea! Why don’t you go do something useful, like actually looking for something in this godforsaken middle of nowhere instead of-“
Suddenly, some boulders from the side of the mountain that appeared purple and majestic in the day, but sinister, dark, and looming at night, fell in front of the lane they were driving on, causing Tom to slam on the brake and stop the car with a rude jolt. Grabbing Kate’s arm, he then laid his head on her shoulder saying, “I’m sorry, Kate. I really shouldn’t be snapping at you so much; after all, we were supposed to head home sooner or later, and I guess fate just wanted us to go sooner, I guess.”
Apologetically, Kate said, “Don’t be sorry. If it weren’t for me, we wouldn’t be in this predicament in the first place. It’s my fault.”
“No, it’s not; it’s clearly my fault for being such a lousy driver.”
“No, it’s for me being such a lily-livered girlfriend who doesn’t allow any fun. It’s my fault!”
“No, it just has to be me for not being cautious enough. I mean, it did say there was a murderer. Maybe I’ve been downplaying it a bit.”
“Quit blaming yourself! It’s clearly my fault that we got stuck here-“
“Oh, stop it,” went Tom, playfully shoving Kate off of him. “It was my fault, and don’t you forget it!” Before Kate could protest further, he unlocked the doors, saying, “I saw some small hut near the side of the road. Maybe you can ask for directions.”
Kate reluctantly undid her seatbelt, allowing herself to rest her feet upon the pavement. Before she went anywhere however, she let out a plaintive whine toward Tom, saying, “Couldn’t you come with me? The murderer could still be around here…”
Tom clearly disagreed. “We clearly must’ve left him behind by now. Come on, you can’t be serious!”
“Well, fine. But I won’t feel as secure as I am if I were with you.”
Defeated, Tom stretched as he got out of the car, saying, “Well, I suppose the fresh air could do us both some good. But I’m going to lag a bit behind. You know how I’m not great with speaking to random strangers.”
So Tom and Kate trekked up the steep sides of the mountain, slowly making their way up to the hut which led to directions, safety, and hopefully soon, to home. However, as they were making their way there, whether it was too dark to see it, or because they were in such a hurry, or because they just simply didn’t care, they didn’t seem to notice the living color that stained the ground in odd splotches; a liquid crimson that had just begun becoming a drying brown. Neither did they notice the disturbed markings in the ground that just couldn’t have been made by a wild animal, the delirious laughter of a madman, or even the far-off, but slowly approaching sound of sirens in the distance. They probably could’ve lived if they had seen it, but they hadn’t, and now, (spoiler alert!) they were going to die.
Even after a couple hours of strenuously trekking up the steep and rugged hills of the mountain, the hut didn’t seem to be getting any closer, until the sun began to show its face over the horizon. Kate stood nervously at the welcome mat, wondering what she should do now. Tom, at a safe distance, mimed something. What was that? He seemed to be hitting something with a closed fist. Punching? Striking? No, knocking! Switching her balance from one foot to another, Kate managed a tentative knock. But when nothing happened, she barraged the door with furious knocks that were loud enough to attract a mountain lion, but even that didn’t seem to bring anyone outside. Frustrated, she thrust the door open by herself, which emitted a low creak as it opened inward. She wrinkled her nose at the mildewed walls and peeling paint, and shivered at the sudden drop in temperature. That’s strange, shouldn’t it be warmer inside, she wondered. Undeterred, she shouted, “Hello? Is anyone in here?” before giving up and deciding to go outside. However, she was stopped by a sinister shadow at the foot of the door who was dressed in all black with an incredibly stooped figure, whose hands seemed horribly mangled and disfigured. No, one was incredibly mangled and disfigured. The other was a perfect arch, cold silver laced by the early morning sunlight. She just barely managed to give a bloodcurdling scream before Jack swooped in with a deadly arc of stained and bloody steel, curving upward with a shower of liquid crimson. Another crimson rain, a gray black sky, and a pale, silver crescent moon for Jack to enjoy! But before he can smile and wipe off his hook like he routinely does after a kill, his world explodes in a wave of crimson as he falls like an uprooted tree, his unseeing eyes still looking at the sky.
Hands trembling, a police officer stands and looks at all the carnage; one dead killer, and two adolescent bodies with mouths still open in endless screams. Early enough to be able to catch the killer off guard, but still too late.