In the Shadow of the Venetian Ripper | Teen Ink

In the Shadow of the Venetian Ripper

May 9, 2013
By LuketheDuke BRONZE, Nunayur Business, Other
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LuketheDuke BRONZE, Nunayur Business, Other
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Favorite Quote:
The duke is here

In the Shadow of the Venetian Ripper:

Chapter 1: Madness and Anger
He woke up, sweating and panting. He was obviously in distress. The man squirmed around, trying to escape. He cried out, not in pain, but in desperation. He was in metal binds, pinned to an uncomfortable roller bed. Realising it was useless, he stopped struggling and sighed in despair. Looking around, the man found out he was in a sewer. That would explain the smell. Suddenly, a dark person came out of the shadows. He was dressed all in black, clad in an old-style black robe, black boots, black gloves, and a wide-brimmed hat with a dark veil, hiding the mysterious man’s face. He stepped closer to the bound man, until he was only a foot away from the poor soul.
“Who are you?” rasped the captured man. The dark figure waited a few seconds to respond.
“Your killer, Mr. Jones,” said the dark figure in an eerie voice. “But not just yet. You’re still valuable. Count yourself lucky.” Now frightened, Mr. Jones, trembled a bit. The dark figure loomed ominously over him, waiting like a spider with its prey.
“I hate you,” Mr. Jones whispered harshly.
“Don’t be so quick to assume that, sir. You are angry, and afraid.” The dark figure started circling the bed, hands behind back. “Anger, Mr. Jones, is a much different thing. It consists of bad feelings toward one another. Being mad is a synonym for anger, except for one thing. It can also refer to insanity, a much different term. This isn’t a coincidence, however. Insanity consists partly of anger. The other parts consists of either accidental or intentional. Accidental insanity is the body’s reaction of a scarring event, such as a close family member being murdered. The body will enter a state of confusion, not knowing what to do until the brain steps in and fixes it. The brain can take a rational or irrational route, and sometimes, this is the main transition to insanity or relief. Those who choose relief are the ones you see and know today, but they won’t forget the incident and will always have the choice to go insane. Intentional insanity is the most common type. Often, the brain will divide into several parts, warring over who gets final control over the body, damaging the body itself.
“Meanwhile, the body is getting wrecked and the ‘voices’ people hear are the representatives of each faction, trying to convince the body to take their sides.” the black figure stopped circling the bed, and leaned in close to Jones. “If the body chooses one, the problem will be resolved, but consequences will occur. Schizophrenics are tormented by those factions, often taking all the sides and causing a bit of chaos.” Jones trembled, and his captor went to sit down on a chair.
“What does this have to do with me?”
“You don’t know what you were saying. It’s up to me to correct you. Which also brings me to my next point.” He stood up again, walking back and forth the alleyway. “The next level of anger is rage. It is more sever than simple anger, and small things are done to cue the person’s sentiment. Fury is where a person takes increased actions. At this point, they do nothing to mask their fury. You could pass off as furious, but not yet hateful. Now, hatred, is where the person develops a fetish for the subject, and does almost everything to displease it.”
“Almost?” Jones said.
“Yes. This is where the final state of anger plays in. Vengeance destroys whatever shred of respect the hateful had for the hated. It is the advanced form of anger, and the fetish turns into a passion to completely break or eliminate the subject who is hated.”
“But that’s just it. I want revenge for what you’ve done to me.” The prisoner growled.
“Stop using slang. You are at most irritated and annoyed about what I’ve done. You are not willing to pour all of your time into me, and would be satisfied if I got a 10-year sentence.” the figure’s voice got rougher and louder, until he was almost yelling. “Hatred is where you want me to be on either death row or life sentence. Vengeance is where you won’t stop until my family is dead and I’m on the way to the chair! I can tell you’re going to say you were ‘traumatized’ and get a day off at the office. If you were vengeful, you would quit your job entirely to hunt me down.” The prisoner was quiet.
“Alright, I suppose I’m not that vengeful. I’m frightened, and I want to go home, please!” His voice started quivering.
“Do you really? Careful with your words, Ben.”
“How do you know my name?” Ben Jones cried. The dark jailor ignored the question.
“Would you rather go home in a body bag, or stay in a sewer, protected from the injustices of life? Think about it. Now, answer my questions, and you can go home and be angry.” Jones nodded. The jailor pulled out a long ice pick, and placed the blade onto Mr. Jones’ naked stomach.
“Your friend, Sean Best, is it?” He nodded.
“I hate him! No, I’m vengeful toward him. See, that little lesson played a part in the real conversation. Now, where is he?!” Ben trembled. “I repeat, where did he go? He moved out of Venice for a reason.”
“I don’t know,” Jones whimpered. The jailor drove his ice pick through Ben’s belly, and he screamed loudly. “Scream all you want, no one can hear you, it’s a sewer at the bottom of Venice! WHERE IS SEAN?!” Jones cried out in agony. “TELL ME!”
“H-He’s at R-Richmond,” Ben whimpered quietly. “You’ll never be able to find him. It’s a big place,” he said with confidence.
“Mmm, we’ll see about that,” said the dark man before moving the pick to Ben’s throat. “Now, tell me the airline he went to fly to there.”
“What?” Jones could feel his Adam’s apple moving against the cold blade. “I-I don’t know!”
“We’ll see,” said the jailor as he put two gloved fingers on Ben’s throat. “Tell me the airline he went to, and I’ll let you live for now,”
“I don’t know, I don’t know! I don’t know!” Jones gasped in a desperate voice.
“You’re telling the truth. Ugh. Nevermind, I’ll just find another airline to America,” the dark jailor pressed the blade into Jones’ throat, drawing a small amount of blood. Jones whimpered in terror. “Now, be a good boy, and tell me Sean’s address.”
“You’re kidding me, why would I give you his address to a deranged madman like you, even if I did know it?” Jones added in hastily. He could almost see the veiled man raising an eyebrow.
“Why don’t I give you some incentive to jog your memory?” He then dragged poor Ben to an edge of a large pit. “Can you see down there?” Jones tried to move his head but could only see it from the corner of his eyes. Even then, he was afraid of it.
“N-No, I can’t see it that well.”
“You don’t have to. It’s as dark as a barrel of pitch down there. But do you know what’s inside of this pit?” He shook his head. “Rats. And not just any rats, they’re special.” Ben trembled with fear on what “special” could mean. The veiled man noticed him shaking, and laughed. “Oh, yes, special rats indeed,” the dark man said, still chuckling, “These rats don’t eat normal rat food, but are bred to eat only human flesh.” the veiled man dusted off his robe. “I feed them regularly.” Jones recalled the recent disappearances of several Venetians, some of them his co-workers. It was part of the reason why Best moved to Richmond. “Anyways, feeding time’s coming up, and I don’t want all my pets to die on me, would I? No, of course not,” the veiled jailor said caringly.
“How did you get all those rats?” Jones asked inquisitively, not able to hold in his curiousness.
“I was once a ratcatcher, working to get rid of Venice’s vermin. But no matter how hard I pleaded, they wouldn’t dare put a little extra money in my pockets. After all I did for them, they ignored me completely! I couldn’t pay for my home, my taxes rose through whatever roof I owned, I had to sell everything!” Jones couldn’t help but feel sorry for the poor man. “So, I left. I left them like they left me. Venice, the city were couples went on honeymoons to, was a living hell for me. I wanted revenge. The same rats that I was payed meagerly to kill were now my only friends.” Jones felt a tear in his eye, but he didn’t know if it was from the sob story or from sheer terror. “I put them in a pit. They mated, and a new generation of rat babies were born. From that day on, their diet consisted of human flesh. I took some dead bodies and threw them down to the vermin. I was surprised to see the bones were picked clean the next week. I fed them more cadavers, and finally real, living flesh.” Jones’ eyes widened. “First up for the rat feast was governor Bianci. He paid me enough for me to lose my house. Oh, if you could’ve heard him scream,” he paused to chuckle some more. Beads of sweat appeared on Jones’ forehead. “Next was landowner Russo. He evicted me from my home. I made sure the rats were extra hungry.” Jones shuddered. “The rest is history. Random policemen and other government appointed people. I may have taken some of your friends, by the way,” he said in an evil and unremorseful tone. Beads of perspiration ran down Jones’ body. He remembered Ramirez and Leonardo. Both innocent people who met their end in the gullets of vermin.
“You sick bastard. Those people didn’t deserve to die. Monster! I hope you go to the deepest, most horrible place in hell for this,” Jones said with a weak edge in his voice.
“Oh no, Mr. Jones, those people had every right to die,” the murderer retorted coldly. “They didn’t know where Mr. Best was.” He cackled sadistically. Poor Mr. Jones couldn’t stop trembling. “They died. They deserved to die. All of them do!” The killer’s voice got extremely high. He started laughing again. But it wasn’t his usual chuckle of delight. It was a demented, evil howl of a madman that Jones would never forget. It was the living embodiment of madness, showing the lowly ratcatcher’s true colors. Jones screamed again, even though he knew it was useless. Together, it was a terrifying mix of horror, sadism, and craziness.
“No, no, no, no, no, no! Please, save me, Lord!”
“Almighty God won’t save you here! Think about it. Would He allow you, one of his children, to fall into the arms of a demon?”
“No, but he’ll save me from this nightmare! This will only make me a stronger person!” Jones yelled harshly.
“Oh-ho, no, not in my world! All you’ll get is death. The Lord can’t see you here! No one can but ME!” the veiled man cut the binds that were holding Mr. Jones’ hands and feet. Before he could do anything, the jailor grabbed his throat violently and thrusted Jones in the air with shocking strength, one-handedly, above the rat pit. “Now, I have a few more questions about Best.” Jones felt the cold, gloved fingers on his throat slowly squeeze.
“I weigh over 200 pounds!” Jones rasped silently. The killer ignored him.
“Tell me, Mr. Jones, did Seanny boy tell you his address?”
“This is just a dream, just a dream, if I pinch myself, I’ll wake up.” True to his word, Jones pinched his forearm over and over again. The man’s grip tightened.
“Where is he?” he said in a deathly serious tone.
“He never gave me his address, I don’t know where he is,” Jones whimpered weakly.
“You lie!”
“No, I swear, I don’t!” Jones cried.
“You’re lying. I can tell. You’re sweating buckets, your pulse is like a drum, and you’re blushing to high heavens.” It was all true, unfortunately. Jones never was a good liar.
“Okay, fine, you win,” Jones sniffled. “Sean gave me his new address and phone number in case I ever decided to go to Richmond.” A pause. “I guess he wanted to save old friendships. He always did like working here. That is, until you came along and killed Leo and Ramirez.” The hatred came back to his voice. Ignoring the possible risks, Jones went on.
“He had to move. Everyone was scared. Pretty soon, I was the Lead Manager of Affairs. Not that I wanted to be. Just a handful of unqualified people at the office. All because of two disappearances.” Jones spat on the floor in front the killer’s boots. He let go of Jones for barely half a second and caught him by the ankle with his left hand. Pretty soon, Jones had regained his scared whimper.
“That’s very touching, but it doesn’t answer my question. Address, number, now,” the killer barked out. Jones rattled some numbers and names, effectively giving the dark man Sean Best’s personal information. After the interrogation was over, Jones started to cry, out of guilt, pain, and horror. The killer, however, was pleased and delighted. “Thank you, my friend, I now have a new destination. My work here in Venice is done, and now it’s time to go to Richmond.”
“Burn in hell. I should never have given you Sean’s address. What kind of friend am I?” Jones said remorsefully. The killer replied,
“Word of advice: never ask for consolidation from a murderer. Nothing but trouble. But I can help you solve something. If you never gave me Best’s address, I would’ve killed you, and probably find out his address anyway. You never wanted to give me his location? I won’t spare you.” And then, the killer let go of Jones who was still suspended over the pit. He fell down, screaming out the whole way and begging for mercy. Once he landed, there was a large snapping sound followed by the excited chitters of hungry rats. The screaming stopped after the first 30 seconds of the snapping noise. The killer pulled out a brass stopwatch and checked it.
“Hmm, a new record,” he said. He closed the watch, and put it back in his pocket. Then, he got a notepad from his desk and wrote a reminder to himself to catch the next available flight to Richmond. The roller bed, covered in blood, went next to the desk. Before leaving the sewer, the killer looked back at his pit, thinking about his rats. “They’ll be fine,” he reassured himself. After changing his clothes to something less noticeable, he packed his things in a suitcase, and climbed out.
The mysterious man, who had ruthlessly slaughtered several people, escaped the scene without raising an eyebrow. He complimented himself on his good work.

Chapter 2: Deathly Real Estate

The Tyron’s were a happy family. Two kids, a cat, and a nice house to keep them all in. The dad, Alexander Tyron, worked at the Development Board at Luxury Goods Inc. They wanted a new product, so he had to work late hours. His wife, Shantai Tyron, didn’t mind. She took care of her kids while her husband was away. They caught the killer’s attention because they lived near Sean Best. The murderer needed to study Best if he wanted to find the right moment to strike. The Tyron’s large, colonial-style house would be perfect.
Shantai was washing dishes. The kids were finally in bed on time, for once. She checked her watch, and sighed. Still two hours until Alex turned up. She always missed him during idea development sessions. Finished with the dishes, she went to check on the kids. Sound asleep in their room, bundled in their blankets like a wrapped gift.
Shantai smiled, and went back downstairs. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. She checked through the peephole, and found a man in a business-like suit. Shantai got excited for a moment, but the man was white, which meant it wasn’t her husband. She opened the door, and the man grinned generically. Shantai leaned on the door.
“Whataya want?” she said.
“If you’ll let me inside for a moment, I’ll explain.” She stood aside, and the man came in.
“This better be good. I ain’t in no mood to buy fire insurance.”
“Oh, no, ma’am, this is much better. Tell me, have you ever bought knife insurance?” Shantai blinked.
“This some kinda joke? The hell is knife insurance?”
“Oh, no, some cheapo tryin’ to mooch off my family. Tell me, is this a legit organization, or a crook’s guild? Get out my house. Git!” The conman tried to say something, but Shantai slammed the door in his face. She sighed. The day was exhausting for her, and she had planned to go to bed. She just wanted to wait for her husband. Shantai sat down on the couch, sighed, and rubbed her eyes. So tired, she thought. Maybe just a few moments of closing my eyes, that’ll be enough. She began to close her eyes, and started to snooze.
Suddenly, the phone rang, and Shantai was jerked awake. At first, she was mad and confused, and then realized it could’ve been Alex. She grabbed the phone and said,
“Hello?” No answer. She waited a few more seconds. “Hello? Alex, baby?” No answer again. Shantai was just about to say something, until a voice came on the speaker.
“Why haven’t you checked the kids?” a slick and creepy voice croaked. Shantai got angry again.
“Listen, I was already attempted to be fooled today, and it wasn’t a very good attempt. What’s your problem?" Shantai asked angrily.
“Why haven’t you checked the kids?” the voice repeated.
rolled his eyes, took out an ice pick, and grabbed Shantai by the throat. He held the blade only a few centimeters from her eyes.
“Told you it was a growing problem,” he said. Shantai opened her mouth to scream, but the man squeezed her neck to stop it. “I wouldn’t do that. A decibel too loud, you’re gonna wish you bought knife insurance,” the dark demon warned. He wrapped his arm around her throat and put his blade on her heart. “Let’s take a stroll upstairs, shall we?” And he forced her up to her children’s room, dark as night.
“Why are you doing this?” Mrs. Tyron sobbed. The man in a suit said nothing, instead pulling one of the covers up to reveal poor little Marie dead, her windpipe gushing blood onto the sheets. Shantai gasped. The man pulled the other cover, and Benny’s head was partly gone, a pool of congealed blood on his pillow. Shantai groaned, stumbled over, and threw up on the floor. The man laughed. He threw her against the wall between the beds. She started crying, huge beads of tears dropping on the floor amongst her children’s blood. The man in the suit roared with laughter.
“Monster! You killed my kids! I hope you die in the hole you were born in, you- you- you psycho!” The killer stopped laughing instantly.
“A psycho, huh? Let me tell you, who’s really psycho? The woman living a lie, waiting for her husband to come to her arms, waiting to hold him and bask in his warmth, waiting for him while he lets another woman bask more than you.”
“The woman, telling herself he will be back and be faithful, but knowing he will just take advantage of you.” Shantai gasped in horror.
“No, no, he wouldn’t do that. No way. He loves me, he tells me every night,” Shantai insisted desperately.
“Does he really? He lies. Your warmth has gotten cold. He wants to bask in a new, brighter light. He is tired. Of you. Of your coldness.” Shantai bit her hand and closed her eyes.
“You’re lying. You’re lying. He’d never do that. He couldn’t betray the kids.” She started sobbing again, remembering the horrible sight of her children, dead.
“Ask him yourself. He will come home in nearly 2 hours. Too much time to wait. Instead, let’s try something else. We will call the police. Tell them that something bad, something awful happened at the Luxury Goods building, and to contact Alex Tyron. Something bad will happen, believe me.” Shantai stopped crying, and regained her senses. “They will go over to the building. Alex will be at the Meeting Room if he’s faithful. They don’t find him, he’s with a different woman.”
“You wanna know something?” Shantai said calmly. “I take Judo classes every Saturday morning.” Suddenly, the poor, helpless housewife sprang up on her feet to deliver several blows with her hands and feet onto the man who killed her kids. He took them like a pro boxer, and landed a punch of his own. It flung her against the wall. “Hyah!” She was about to land a chop that would’ve knocked him out cold, but he dodged it, took his ice pick, and stabbed her between the eyes three times. Shantai was dead. Putting back the blade, the killer who previously slaughtered Ben Jones claimed another victim. He checked her pulse. Non-existent, like he expected.
“You shouldn’t have done that, lady,” he said to her corpse. He opened his suitcase, still with him after all that has happened. Inside was a black robe, complete with black gloves, a black hat with a dark veil, and black boots one would see on a fighter crossing rough terrain. He put them all on. Now, he was a different person. Now, he was the unofficial Venetian Ripper. No one opposed him except for Best. He had his base. It was time to seal the deal.

Alex entered the meeting room from the coffee break. Most people were seated, but the others were probably still getting coffee. He checked his papers. His idea and its explanation would change the board’s traditional mind. He swore he would make it work. The others came in. They were ready to start. The room was still noisy, but the chairman called for quiet, and he got it. A few moments after that, he spoke up,
“Alright, people we’re on a role here. Several new product ideas, most of them gold. Speaking of which, our necklace lines are doing fantastic.” Polite laughter came from the crowd. Alex smiled and shook his head. Chairman Clark always did have a sense of humor. “Alright, enough jokes,” he became serious. “We need good, new ideas for the public to enjoy. Alex, what about you?”
Alex Tyron, who was raising his hand, said,
“Well, I have this plan to elevate this company into new heights, sir.”
“So, not an invention, then?” Clark said with confusion.
“No, sir, but it will gain us profit, mark my words.”
“Alright, what is it?” Clark sighed. Alex took out some paper.
“Well, sir, I have come up with a brilliant idea to-”
“Enough introductions, Mr. Tyron, I want it without wasting time, this meeting is almost over.” Alex frowned, and shuffled through some papers.
“I’m suggesting we start shipping our goods overseas.” At that, everyone else started crying out angrily. Clark called for silence again, and everyone stopped. He sat down.
“Now, I don’t mean to burst your bubble, Alex, but Luxury Goods Inc. has proudly served local Americans since the ‘20’s. We don’t want to ruin that record.”
“Sir, my studies, no, the world’s studies have shown a company has a better chance of surviving with the help of foreign countries.”
“While I appreciate the concern for our company, we’ve been able to build our reputation as an all-american producer. We managed to survive the Depression without seeking foreign aid.”
“And how do you think we did that? We laid off thousands of workers, and the way we survived was from the fortune of the owner’s father. And may I remind you, the company was still running on it after World War II.”
“Even so, Mr. Tyron, do you know how much shipping costs are in the US now? Overseas shipping would cost a fortune. And how do you think countries would react to our products? Hmm? They would ignore it, because they already have several other manufacturers who also make pretty pillows and fancy doilies. Different ideas, or even worse, the same ideas. It would also open us up to competition, and God knows that’s the last thing we need. This company is crumbling, and this action will deliver the crippling blow.” Alex was amazed at the stubbornness of Clark.
“This action will also give us crutches, a second chance! Why can’t you see that?” Mr. Tyron pleaded.
“I’m sorry, Alex. You are a valued member, but this plan just won’t work. You have to see that,” Chairman Clark said apologetically. Alex furrowed his eyes and rubbed his forehead.
“Canada. All I ask to trade with Canada. All I’m asking.” Alex lifted his head. “It’s not even that far! Just cross the border, and we’ll have a gold mine.”
“I’m sorry, buddy, but the answer is no,” Clark said firmly. Alex held his head. “Unless you have any different ideas, please don’t raise your hand.”
“Well, I do have this schematic about a new massage chair.” Clark looked enthusiastic.
“Yes, tell me more,” he said.
“It’s, uh, a cheaper alternative to the previous materials we used in our chairs. It’s also comfier and more convenient than leather.”
“Can this material be applied to our couches as well?”
“Yes, but I’m most excited about the-”
“Send the massage chair schematics over email. We’re gonna talk later about this new fabric.” Clark looked at his watch. “Well, it seems we’re out of time, folks, we’ll see you later for more new ideas. Have a good evening.” Everyone stood up, and got out. Alex had a disappointed look on his face, since Chairman Clark nonsensically refused his overseas shipping idea. He hated his boss even more. As he was thinking this, a man with short, greasy hair approached him. Tyron wondered who this was.
“Hey, buddy. Heard you at the meeting. Feel awful sorry for you.” Without ever seeing this person before, Tyron said,
“Who are you? Haven’t seen your face in the office.”
“I’m an intern. I joined this meeting to get some info on how this company works. I agree about the overseas shipping thing. Man, sometimes people can be so stubborn!”
“I know, and I’m really pissed about this whole thing.” The man stared at him.
“Come over to my place for some coffee, my roommate makes the best coffee.”
“You know, man, I’d love to, but I got a wife and two kids to look after.”
“Oh, you don’t have to worry about them anymore.” Alex stopped.
“I’m sorry, I must’ve misheard. What did you say again?”
“Your wife and kids. You don’t need to worry about them.” Alex was starting to get creeped.
“What do mean by that?”
“I mean, they won’t be bothering you anymore. You’re free of them. Now, why don’t you-”
“I’m free of them? What if I don’t wanna be free of them? What if-”
“Relax, man. You don’t wanna be free of them, fine by me. You’ll be joining them soon.” Alex backed away from his co-worker. The intern walked toward Mr. Tyron, and smiled a chilling, malicious grin before lashing out at Alex, knocking him out.

Alex Tyron woke up, gasping in horror. He looked around, and took a deep breath. Just a bad dream, he told himself. He must’ve fallen asleep during the meeting, and one of his friends took him home. Only, this didn’t look like his home. Alex looked around again, and recognized his surroundings. He was in the company’s storage basement, and lying on a couch. He tried to get up, but couldn’t, somehow.
“Why would my friends bring me here?” Alex thought aloud. He tried to get up again, but found his efforts was blocked by strong rope. Struggling to get out, he realized it was pointless, and stopped. He sighed, not knowing what to do. Alex thought about his wife and kids, and wondered what that weirdo did with them. He thought about calling them, to make sure they were OK. He couldn’t do that, of course, since he was tied up. Alex felt depressed, and started crying for his and his family’s safety. Struggling some more, only this time with determination, he accidentally fell off the couch. He landed with a thud. Alex realized he wasn’t tied down, and he was free to hop around if he could get up. He relaxed, and pulled his body up. Finally, a situation where sit-ups come in handy, Alex thought. The next part would be tougher; Alex would have to stand up without the aid of his arms. Before he could do that though, a black figure came out of the shadows and forced him down. Slinging Alex over his shoulder, the dark figure dropped him on the couch he was on before. Alex got a better look at his jailor, and saw he was dressed all in black, a thick black veil hanging from his wide-brimmed hat. The man said nothing, but took out a long, sharp-looking ice pick. Realizing what was happening, Alex’s eyes widened with terror.
“Oh, you don’t need to do that, sir,” Alex said in a timid voice.
“You sure? You certainly seem like you want it.”
“What makes you think that?” Alex breathed.
“You’re tired of being harassed by your boss, never listening to your ideas. What an annoying guy!” Alex started to recognize the eerie voice.
“You- you’re the intern I was talking to! What’re you doing?”
“Making sure we get what we deserve. You don’t like your boss, do you? Oh, what’s his name, Clark Dennings?” Running off to a closest, he opened it and procured a body. Chairman Clark’s body, with a thousand bloody wounds and a face paralyzed in terror. “There we go, problem solved!” the killer yelled. “Now, it’s time to solve my problems. Neither one of us particularly enjoy social expectations. Maybe a simple thing, like manners. I don’t see a point in them, and deep down, neither do you. You always hated when you were kid to hold in your complaints, sit still and silent whenever your mother attended fancy parties. She scolded you every time you spoke up. Sometimes, when she was drunk enough, she would beat you to a pulp.”
“How do you my mother beat me?” Alex said with tears in his eyes.
“Easy. She told me.” Walking back to the closet, the black-robed man pulled another body out. Alex immediately recognized the chocolate brown eyes and skin, now rotting and lifeless.
“What did you do to her?” Alex said in anger, fear, and relief.
“Nothing I did to her. The drink finished her off. I just checked her jail records and found she was convicted of child abuse, assault, and theft. After her husband died, she was out income to spend on useless things. So, she robbed her neighbor’s house. Sloppily, I might add. She never told you about it, because she hated you.” Alex started trembling and shaking his head. “She genuinely hated you. You were an accident, an accident that increased her already large state of hypocrisy.” Alex sobbed. It wasn’t every day you saw a grown man cry. The killer was used to it. “All I had to do to find out about your horrible childhood was look at her prison files. A few days after she was released, Mrs. Alicia Tyron was found dead, with dangerous amounts of liquor in her bloodstream. Did you hear that Alex? The thing that your mother loved more than you betrayed her! Ha! What irony!” Alex was having a breakdown. Maybe because of the suddenness of his mother’s death, maybe because of the fear in his situation. Maybe a mixture of both. Either way, the killer in black seemed to be enjoying it. He was laughing like he just heard the best joke in the world. Tyron couldn’t stop shaking and looking at his mother. The robed man stopped laughing. He pulled out his ice pick again and raised it, making it look like he was going to kill Alex. Alex closed his eyes, waiting for death. Instead, he found that his ropes were cut, and he was free. He tried to dash away, but the dark man grabbed Alex with surprising strength, and pulled him over. “Before you leave, think about the ‘social expectations’ I was talking to you earlier about. I want you to think about them well, especially the ones that make no sense. Remember my words.” He let the poor man go, and he took off instantly, eager to get as far away from the dark man as possible. But before he could leave, he found out the exit door was locked. The killer laughed sinisterly. It was a trick. “Do you wanna know about your family?” Alex Tyron backed against the door. “You’ll be meeting them soon.”
The screams of panic and pain were lost in the woods outside.

In the Shadow of the Venetian Ripper:

Chapter 3: Officer Gus Bale
The men were chattering. They were all anxious to begin a giant meth lab raid. They had painstakingly gotten fresh intelligence on the operation. Many lives were sadly lost gaining information. The chief of police, Bennett Briggins, thought it was high time to attack. They had finally gotten enough inside intel to satisfy the chief. Briggins was a major perfectionist, and hated to lose. That’s why he had assembled an elite team, hand-picked from the best SWAT squads in the Chicago Police Department. The A- Team partnered with the Terminator wouldn’t have been good enough for Briggins.
There was supposed to be heavy protection for the lab, and it was the biggest place for cooking drugs in Chicago. It strangely slipped past the police’s nose for months, and drug lords didn’t dare touch it. Rumors surrounded the lab and gave it a fortress-like feel. It was rumored they even had a stolen tank and was backed by the infamous Yakuza. Just in case, Briggins equipped several men with anti tank rocket launchers.
Everyone one else had the standard SWAT equipment. Officer Lieutenant Gus Bale was the most excited. His cousin had gotten hooked on the lab’s drugs, and nearly died because of it. Bale was eager, and anticipating his revenge.
“Hey, Bale!” Gus turned around. It was his best friend, Jack Jones. He waved. Gus grinned, as he realised the play on his last name.
“Very clever, Jack. Come up with that one, yourself?”
“Maybe. Excited for the raid?” Jack said while he slung his powerful M16 over his shoulder. Gus also noticed the Sig Sauer in his pistol holster.
“You know it. Took a lifetime to get a search warrant, though,” Gus commented. He was talking about the struggle Chief Briggins had trying to get a search warrant for the lab.
“Yeah, disappointing,” Jack said, while putting away his gun. “Least we’re getting somewhere. We at least get to do stuff now!” Jones was the captain of Bale’s squad. They were close friends before, but fell out of touch after college. They were overjoyed when they first found out they were both in the police academy, working together. At first, Bale was jealous of Jack’s quick rise to captain, but got over it since he wasn’t truly interested in giving orders. He preferred to get the small glory of being a civil servant.
“So, what’re we doing, Cap?”
“Real simple. We gas the place, and shoot the baddies. That’s about it. Our squad’s infiltrating the main lab itself, along with two other groups.” Bale grinned widely.
“Sweet! You get us that position?”
“You know I did! What’re friends for?” Bale laughed with joy. Jack continued, “Knew you would wanna be busting heads most of all. We were lucky enough to actually get a spot in the raid, so thank the Lord in your prayers.”
“Don’t be modest, we deserve a spot on this team! You even confirmed our performance is significantly higher than average!” It was true. Jones was a skilled squad leader, who took advantage of the tools he had. He always made sure he snuck a grenade before every mission. Gus was an expert shot, and showed an uncanny apathy for hitting vital organs. He was even talented enough to customize his weapons so that the sights and the barrel were more accurate. Everyone else had a specific set of strengths they utilized often.
“One problem about you, is that you aren’t at all humble,” Jones said sarcastically. “Some restraint every now and then would certainly be appreciated.” Gus chuckled some more.
“Looks like your rank has gotten to your head, man!”
Jones checked his watch. “Sorry, banter has to end. Time to get this show on the road!” Jones walked off. “Okay people, we have five minutes!” He loudly clapped his hands three times. “Let’s go! Double time!”
The men got into position behind Jones.
“Alright, roll call! Adams, Roderick.”
“Bale, August.”
“Here!” Jones rattled a few more names off. Then, something strange happened once he got to the D’s.
“Dennis, Bernard.”
“Do--” He stopped and did a double take. “I must be reading this wrong. Looks like someone here’s a ‘John Doe’.” A few people chuckled softly.
“Here, sir,” said a man in a shaded-out helmet. More men chuckled. Jones was not happy.
“Is this some kind of joke? If it is, it’s not very funny!” Jones bellowed.
“It’s a sad story, really. My father never wanted me, so for my name, he put in John Doe.”
“What about that helmet? I’ve never seen one quite as dark as that one.”
“My father, like I said hated me. One day, when he got especially drunk, he beat me. My face was horrendously disfigured after that, so I always hid my face since then.”
“Okay, then, no need to tell me your life story,” Jack interrupted quickly. “You’re here, and that’s what matters now.”
After that fiasco, Jack sped up the attendance. Everyone was present.
“Alright, people, today’s a special day, as most of you should know.” Jack paced back and forth in front of his men. “We have located the giant drug ring’s main meth lab, a car factory supposedly owned by a Mr. Joseph White.” He took a breath. “Whoever this Joseph White is, he’s probably the alias for the drug lord in charge of the lab. Since we don’t know where the flyin’ hell he is, we are forced to leave some baddies alive in this operation of ours. We’ve identified several men as lieutenants or officers of this Mr. White. These men are to be left alive.” Jack Jones walked over to the projector in the room, and showed different pictures of the associates. Most had long and stringy hair, along with some kind of beard or goatee. All looked shifty and dangerous, someone you’d want to avoid on the streets. These were the lowlifes mothers warned their children about.
“The people on the screen are your targets to arrest. We can assume that they will have armed guards on them, since they are part of Joseph’s inner circle.” Jones took a deep breath. He was clearly nervous, beads of perspiration forming on his forehead. He was wringing his hands as well, which looked extremely clammy. “You have full permission to detain them as you see fit, along with everyone else that would appear to be an obstacle.” He looked at his watch. “Okay, people, it’s time to move!” Jones bellowed as he clapped his hands. “Move it, move it! Let’s go, we don’t have all day! We gotta get to the rendezvous point near the lab!”
The men followed Jones into the SWAT van, and got their weapons. Gus and John got the shotguns. As the van started bumping across the road, he looked over at John Doe. He felt odd around him. Something wasn’t right about him. He didn’t quite know what, but something was up. His name and backstory didn’t sound legit, and he had never seen Doe around the station, and making it on a professional team said something. Gus prided himself in knowing most of the people in his police station, especially the ones who were new. Unless John Doe had recently transferred, there would only be a slight chance Gus didn’t know him.
Even so, Bale thought he would’ve probably remember such a person, despite not knowing him. He tried comforting himself in the possibility Doe was a new transfer, but he knew that was nearly impossible. Gus was determined to get to the bottom of whatever this was, and would talk to Jack about his suspicions after the raid was over.
The SWAT teams were ready. They were driving downtown, and everyone was talking about the raid. Even though Gus was thrilled about the raid he couldn’t shake the feeling that John Doe was bad news. Gus looked over. Doe was cleaning his riot gun, a harmless action, although Gus wondered how he saw from that darkened helmet of his. Yet another puzzle to solve. Nothing could curve him off the fact of Doe’s... oddness.
Gus looked over at Jack. He, too, was peering at John discreetly. Gus and Jack had amazingly similar facial features, but varying hair. Jack had a 5 o’clock shadow and army buzzcut, while Gus had a clean-shaved face and was nearly bald. Neither had a wife, but Jack had a fiancee and they were getting engaged. They were a good couple, and Gus was happy they were getting married. Jack already told Gus that he would be the best man for the wedding, which was no surprise. They were fast friends since Kindergarten, and always got in trouble with the teachers. Both were stubborn and didn’t like being told what to do. It was annoying for Gus, especially since he was a lower ranking than Jack. He got used to it after a while, which was good. Jack didn’t give an exception to Gus when it came to discipline and training.
Bale was disciplined like any other SWAT member, and received the same difficulty of training as any other person. The only difference was that Jack was more open to suggestions supplied by Gus. Gus knew that, and chose not to exploit it. It was a good thing, too, since the Denver Police Department had its fair share of bad cops.
Jack stood up. It was amazing he could keep his stability on the moving van.
“Okay, people, while we are all here and listening, I’m gonna give you all the rundown of the situation. This meth lab we’re raiding is teeming with hired thugs and the worst type of mouth breathers. The junkies will be spared. The men, if they return fire, will not.” Jones slung his gun over his shoulder. “There are many rumors surrounding this place, only some of which are confirmed. For instance, word on street says they have a homemade tank,” He said with a bit of humor in his voice. Everyone chuckled politely. “We can safely shrug that rumor off, but you can’t be too careful. Two squads have been equipped with rocket launchers. It isn’t our business to know where or how we got these RPGs, it’s our job to detain as many people on site as possible.” Another thing about Jones was that it was almost like he had a switch, and could go from humorous and carefree to serious and business-like in a matter of milliseconds. “Another one of those rumors is that the Yakuza is buddy-buddy with this specific meth lab. I strongly believe that this is false, but be careful, just in case.”
The CPD had varying troubles with the Japanese Mob, also known as the Yakuza. They often interfered with police actions, and Chief Briggins was looking for them as a side job of his. Their operatives were extremely deadly, and ruthlessly killed many a cop to slow Briggins’ manhunt down. Their leader, Katsumi Nakagami, was elusive and was almost as hard to find as Joseph White. The difference was it was almost like Nakagami wanted the authorities to find him.
He often showed up in the newspaper as a charitable entrepreneur and CEO of an electronics company. He was extremely popular and had an almost diplomatic immunity with the people. The police were getting bad press in the trying to capture Nakagami, even though he had several Yakuza ties in the past. Chief Briggins was labeled as a ‘racist’ and ‘insensitive’ for trying to nab Nakagami, further increasing the electronics mogul’s status.
“We can’t dismiss anything in this operation. We have to get everything right, this meth lab is no laughing matter. If we take this thing down-- no, once we take this thing down,” Jack paused for dramatic effect. Typical of Jack, Gus thought. “We’ll be either heroes, or dead.” Jack paused again. Gus almost laughed out loud at the drama exuded by Jack. “Let us hope it’s not the latter.” Jack was finished. He sat back down on the rumbling van.
Jack was nearly a Hollywood actor when he used to work for the LAPD. The best he got was a small part on a toothpaste commercial, where he was ‘arresting’ a woman for having bad breath and promoted the toothpaste. Jack decided to go back to Chicago after losing a role in an action movie. He planned to honeymoon back to California again once he got married to his fiancee, Katelyn Taylor. Jack and ‘Kat’ was a well-known couple in the police department. Even Chief Briggins knew them, and offered to pay for the wedding. Kat generously refused, her logic being the chief already paid for Jack’s salary, why should he pay for the wedding?

They finally arrived at the rendezvous point, a parking lot only a few blocks from the meth lab. Several other vans were already there, and more were coming. Gus got a better look at the neighborhood. It was empty and desolate, nothing but a few homeless people resting. There were other signs of life, however. The block was riddled with graffiti, bullet holes, and congealed blood.
“Welcome to Heavenly Avenue, folks,” Jack commented grimly. Police tape surrounded one back alley with a particularly larger amount of blood and bullet marks, but Gus knew the investigation for that place had long since gone cold. The world had apparently given up on this side of town.
Corrupt detectives ruled the investigations in this area, and no work was ever done. It was a miracle the cops got as much data for the lab as they did, since most of the detectives were either paid off or fake. There were many cases of kingpins sending their men to become cops, so they could always hold leverage over the CPD. There’s always a way of knowing a good cop from a bad one; a bad cop has booze on his breath. This was a popular joke Gus himself pioneered back at HQ. It wasn’t exactly gut-busting, but it was cute. Jack, especially, found it funny. It wasn’t much, but it helped lift the spirits of the otherwise glum police officers. Many of them experienced trauma on the job, forced to see friends or family killed just because they helped take down their local druglord. There was no doubt that after the current drug bust, many lives would be lost, many families mourning.
The SWAT’s immense arsenal of weapons and heavy armor would definitely help with the dirty work ‘front liners’ had to do, but it would have no effect once the criminals found the personal lives of the cops. That was every officer’s fear: vengeful gangs would find out who they were and would hunt them down. It had happened before. Cocky cops, who couldn’t resist daring the streets, were the worst. They would either get themselves or others killed. They rarely had living family members, and were forced to live in solitude. Chicago had no short supply of the foolish cops. Maybe that’s why the city was crime-ridden.
Gus was still pondering when Jack pulled him over.
“Hey, man. I need to talk to you.”
“What for?” Gus breathed. Jack looked over his shoulder and scanned the area for a moment. Satisfied, he turned back around and whispered,
“John Doe. Something’s fishy about him. I haven’t seen him around the CPD, and his backstory isn’t the most believable.” He looked back again, this time Gus looked with him. Doe was cleaning his gun, as always. Gus hadn’t the slightest idea on how the gun got so filthy. Maybe it was a nervous tick. “Besides, the fact he hides his face with that cursed helmet isn’t helping.”
“I’ve been thinking about that, too. I know just about every new recruit or transfer that comes in to the CPD and I can tell you for sure, I haven’t seen him at all. Something’s going on.”
“Agreed. I can’t put my finger on it, but we’ll have to keep an eye on John.” Jack then broke away, looking at his clipboard. “The chief should be here anytime soon. I have to greet him.” He smiled, and patted Gus on the shoulder. He walked away.
Gus decided to take inventory. There was nothing better to do. He had the standard M16 assault rifle equipped by the CPD and his own Glock, with a modified sight. Both had three clips each. He could’ve easily gotten the powerful revolver also available, but he knew that ammo would be sparse for that gun. Gus usually grabbed ammo from the ground when he was on a raid, and the Glock was much more common on the streets than a magnum or revolver. Thanks to Jack’s ties and his friendship with him, he was able to get access to all sorts of powerful weapons.
Gus was a simple man, and mostly rejected the special weapons. He could take out three gangbangers easier with a pistol than with a grenade, because of his legendary aim and could hit specific points on the body with ease. However, the team already had a sniper: her name was Katherine ‘Kat’ Wilkins. She was Jack’s fiancee.
Kat was an expert sniper, and could take down a hostile almost instantly. Unfortunately, she couldn’t attend the operation because of family issues involving her father. Luckily, someone else was chosen to be the sniper, Kat’s friend June Kennedy. June was a good shot, but not as deadly as Kat. The same went for Gus. He was better at mid to short range shooting.
Everything in place, Gus was satisfied. With still nothing better to do, he decided to look over at John. For once, he wasn’t cleaning his gun. Instead, he was examining the area. He had similar equipment to Gus: a jet-black AK-47, a Glock handgun, and a dark Remington shotgun. Shotgun ammo wasn’t as common as assault rifle or pistol ammo, and Gus considered it a waste of time and space.
He also noticed John had extra reinforced body armor. That must’ve been one of John’s own modifications. Gus didn’t even know how one reinforced body armor. Thankfully, it was a relatively chilly night. The extra weight John was carrying would help warm him up. But it would bite him in the back when they would start to conduct the raid. He would probably need to move quickly out of the line of fire, and the weight would hold him back. That helmet would hardly be very helpful. The tint would screw him over in the end, and he would be six feet under. His funeral.
A van came thundering by, and parked near Jack. He stood at attention. Police Chief Bennett Briggins stepped out, along with five SWAT members which were part of his squad. Chief Briggins himself would lead the raid. Having the chief nearby somehow comforted Gus, like he would protect him from the malevolent presence of John Doe. His stature asked- no, demanded an aura of respect.
Briggins had thin, balding grey hair and a stern look on his face. He had no facial hair to block his expression, and his expression said that he wouldn’t tolerate anything less than a one-sided victory. Bennett Briggins used to be in the military as a drill sergeant, which would be why he was such a commanding figure. It was like he was born to lead.
“Alright, soldiers, I don’t feel like talking, so LISTEN UP!” Briggins boomed. “Y’all know why you’re here, so not much use explaining it again.” Gus guessed the chief was a man of few words. This was the first time he had seen him in person. He was much more . . . imposing in real life. Scary, but in a good way. Gus was glad he was on their side. “Here’s the lowdown. There are ten floors in the factory compound. Squad One will be smoking the place with gas bombs. The first and second floors will be smoked, but the other ones are not.” He was much less dramatic than Jack. Briggins was straight to the point and collected. “Squad Two and Three will be providing sniper fire.” June was part of Squad Three. “If you see any grunts stupid enough to be near the windows, take their heads off.” Briggins smiled when he said that.
“Squads Four through Six will be getting in the west wing of the lab. Recon tells me that the west wing is the main drug producers. They will be receiving top priority, as Recon also says that security is heaviest there.” Gus, Jack, and John were part of Squad Four. Jack made sure they scored that position, since he knew Gus’ cousin had overdosed on drugs supplied by the meth lab they were currently raiding.
“Squad Seven will be infiltrating the factory manager’s office. We are told that a Mr. Joseph White will be there, along with some of his lieutenants. Squad One will be joining them after they’ve provided some cover for them.” Briggins seamlessly transferred commands, expecting everyone to get it immediately. Another expectation left over from his military days. “Squads Eight and Nine will be taking the east wing. Less security, less meth, so it gets secondary priority. Although I would be careful, since the majority of Mr. White’s officers are there, WHICH is the reason why we’re here.” His annunciation on the word ‘which’ made Gus jump.
“If Mr. White isn’t at the manager’s office, his lieutenants will be WHAT our PRIORITY is.” The way Briggins put stress at just the right words to get the point over to the SWAT teams ran shivers over the men’s spines. “ONE MORE THING!” the chief thundered. “There are several lies told about this place. The way street hoods put it, it’s where the Devil buys his meth.” Gus couldn’t tell if that was a joke or not. With the chief’s loud and gruff tone, he hardly knew. With Jack, it was blatantly obvious whenever he tried his hand with humor.
“MANY of these rumors aren’t true. I doubt that there is a tank guarding the west wing, and I doubt Old Nick comes every other Thursday to buy meth.” This time, a couple cops (including Jack) gave a light chuckle. “The squad leaders will be giving out maps for the factory to their individual team members, along with the squad path highlighted. DIS-MISSED!” The men rushed to their designated teams, and took their positions.
The meth factory was three blocks from the parking lot the SWAT vans were parked at. They would drive the vans to the front of the factory, through a wire fence. It would butcher the slightest possibility for stealth, but intelligence had told that cameras littered the premises. It would be less of an effort to charge in, head on. Luckily, that was Briggins favorite tactic. Gus looked over at Doe, and Doe nodded at him when he noticed him. Gus could’ve sworn that there was a sick smile underneath that evil, tinted helmet.

In the Shadow of the Venetian Ripper:
Chapter 4: The Raid of Bethlehem

SWAT vans were crowded outside the factory. The wire fence and some flimsy wood was all that was blocking the juggernauts the SWAT called vans. In a perfect city, this matter would be quickly resolved by flexing muscles and showing brawn. Then again, a situation of this caliber wouldn’t happen in a perfect city. Maybe in another part of Chicago. The slums and ghettos might as well have belonged to Detroit. Gus had seen action in Detroit, and decided not to think about it. He stuck out like a sore thumb once he got transferred there, and nearly died on several occasions. He’d heard from Jack that the bad parts of Los Angeles weren’t all that friendly either.

A loud and thundering crash interrupted his thoughts. Gus had barely noticed the SWAT vans had already blundered into the car factory. That also reminded him of Detroit. Thinking again of the perfect city, an operation like this would be nearly illegal. It was no secret that Chief Briggins had ‘special connections’, so it hardly mattered if civilians were in the way of SWAT operations. They would stomp through them like wet paper, and no one would be any different. Get your head in the game, Bale, Gus thought. It’s time for a raid, no time for your fantasyland nonsense. Would this raid really be authorized by the State of Chicago? Stop it, remember what they did to cousin Claude. Dying from drugs was his own problem, it’s time to get over it. He was your favorite cousin! Your closest friend besides Jack! Jack. He’s always been there, even when Claude died. CLAUDE NEEDS TO BE AVENGED! It’s time to forget Claude! What did he ever do to help anyone?

Another crash. This time, it was into a power pole. Most of the lights in the west wing went out. Great. Looks like Squad Four was operating in the dark. Bale had a feeling John Doe would be appreciating that. The power pole went careening down, pulling down as many wires as it could. Part of the east wing lost power as well, and the rest of the west wing went dark. As the power pole fell clumsily down, it caught fire and strapped itself in front of the SWAT vans. A gate of fire. Gus wouldn’t be surprised if a ghastly sign came up, saying, ‘Abandon all hope, ye who entered here’. The universe was giving every sign possible to the SWAT squads, nearly yelling ‘turn back immediately’. The vans went straight through the inferno, onto the factory.

The gate of fire was slowly getting farther away, until it was barely an orange flicker. The front doors came up, surrounded by hoodies. The SWAT squad leapt out of the van, and took cover behind it. Sure enough, the guards opened fire onto the van. There were only three, and the team could’ve taken them on easily. They had to wait for Squad One to come in before the SWAT raid officially started. For now, the cops needed to clear enough of the area for Squad One, and that required discipline. Jack opened his mouth to give an order, but before he could get a word out, John Doe bull-rushed the hoodlums.

Despite the suddenness and brazenness of Doe’s attack, Gus still found the time to marvel at his skill. John swung his darkened AK-47 at a hostile and took aim. RAKKA-RAKKA-RAKKA! The bullets trailed across the space between John and the street thug and nailed him, point blank. The extra-heavy armor hardly seemed to impede Doe as he dashed to the right and shot two rapid bursts at the second thug. He appeared to be wounded from shots centered at the shoulder and abdomen. Gus quickly took aim with his pistol, and downed the wounded thug with a headshot. The third and final hoodlum was standing there, dumbtruck as his comrades fell. In a blink of an eye, John rattled a series of chest shots onto the dumbfounded thug. He went down without a noise.

The area was clear, but John was not. Jack stormed up to him and yelled,

“What were you thinking, Doe?! You could’ve gotten killed!”

“I didn’t, did I? Besides, the front is clear. That’s all that matters.”

“You endangered-” Jack stumbled with his words. John really wasn’t endangering his own teammates, since he was the only one with the balls to blitz the door. “You should’ve-” Jack paused with that, too. John’s technique was flawless, and Jack probably would’ve done the same thing Doe did if he wasn’t hindered with leading the squad. Failing to see a fault in Doe’s actions, he waved it off. “Good shooting, Doe,” Jack finally decided. “But next time, be more patient and wait for the rest of your team.” John was lucky that the cops in this part of town hardly paid attention to the rules. Jack was no different. He was gung-ho at heart, but his unwavering loyalty to the law overruled that behavior. John nodded.

“I’ll be sure to slow down for the rest of you. I keep forgetting you need your training wheels.” Jack didn’t argue. After all, who would with a man two inches taller than him? For now, Doe was good to keep on the squad. Gus would still have to keep an eye on him.

Smoke flooded the first few floors of the factory. It didn’t affect the hallway the shaking man was traveling in. He came into the dark room, still shaking. The lights had just went out, and the air conditioning a second ago. The men were bundled up, trying to conserve what heat they had. Not Joseph. He could be at the top of Mount Everest and he would never dare cover his white tank-top. He wore his blue jeans, combat boots and tank top every day of the year. For some reason, Joseph never found himself cold. The man who just came in, after several seconds of silence, finally spoke to his superior.

“M- Mr. White?” the man stuttered.

“Just Joseph will do,” Joseph said in a steely voice. “Joseph of Arimathea. White is a name of the past.” The other man gulped. He had never seen his boss in person. Even though it was too dark to see him, he could immediately recognize the terrifying figure.

“The S-SWAT are here, s-sir,”

“Good. Hopefully, they’ve taken the bait.”

“Yes, sir. Our plants have just reported.” Stuttering would not help his situation, the lackey decided. Joseph of Arimathea turned his head slightly. His long and oily brown hair was illuminated by the moonlight.

“This is good. This’ll be the perfect example for our adversaries. After this fiasco is over, Bethlehem will emerge, stronger than ever,” Joseph said, pleased. Bethlehem was the name of the entire meth lab. It was previously owned by Manger Car Manufacturers, but they’d abandoned the factory after several lawsuits and safety issues. “Hey, what’s your name again?” The messenger cringed. There was a possibility bad things could happen to him if he gave Joseph his name. Then again, he could be rewarded if he decided to be honest. Deciding to take the path which would suit Joseph, the messenger said,

“Jerry, sir. Jerry Crannings.”

“Crannings, huh?” Joseph turned around fully. Jerry didn’t notice before that Joseph was wearing a fedora. “Tell you what. Go and get my lieutenants, Jerry. Tell them they have a minute to reach my office. Since I trust you, Jerry, I’ll give you two minutes to reach them.” Even his hardly visible silhouette was menacing. Crannings bowed his head, and backed out of the room. He started running like the Devil himself was chasing him. With his boss’ reputation, the Devil would be a welcome change.

The first and second floors were completely enveloped in bitter tear gas. Jack and some other officers handed out gas masks to the men. Gus wondered how Doe would put on his mask, but found out soon once John turned to the wall and did so. The gas mask was tight and uncomfortable, but Gus knew he had to take it. What he would give to be Squad Two or Three, perched behind cover and picking off people at will.

Several hoodlums were coughing violently. Most of the cops were knocking them out with the butt of their guns, but John Doe was actively shoving his Glock onto the goons’ heads and blowing their brains out. Gus counted at least four victims of this vicious way to die, but the smoke made him unsure. Sometimes, he even diversified his executions and flawlessly snapped two thugs’ necks consecutively.
The smoke was thinner on the second floor, but that didn’t stop John’s killing spree. Gus counted five more corpses following Doe. Ruthless, yet efficient. At the third floor, the smoke was barely a mist and the squads diverged; Squads Four through Six went right, Squads Eight and Nine went left. Five hostiles approached Gus’ group. The three squads combined mowed them down without mercy. Their bodies flailed vigorously and fell to the ground. Gus didn’t bother to check the pulses, even if they did fail to kill the men. The fourth floor came sooner than expected.

The lieutenants arrived at Joseph’s office. A collection of colorful people, with such resumes as arson, manslaughter, assault, and drug trafficking. All of them, collected at the center of hell. According to Dante’s Inferno, the coldest point. Most of the lieutenants carried flashlights, since the power was still out. Joseph greeted them with,
“Greetings, gentlemen. Please, take a seat.” There were no visible chairs other than the one Joseph was on.
“Uh, sir?” one of the lieutenants asked.
“You heard me. Take a seat.” The men were still confused, and looked around to their peers. “Take a seat, gentlemen,” Joseph said with a harsher tone. They sat down on the cold floor. “Well, why are you sitting on the floor? There are chairs everywhere, for Christ’s sake!” Joseph gestured around the room. The lieutenants quickly stood up, but Joseph waved them down. “Forget it. We’ve wasted enough time as it is.” The lieutenants sat back down, their behinds freezing.
“So, what’re we doin’ here, boss? Sumthin’ ya need?”
“Yes. As most of you know, the fuzz has caught up with us. We are treading on testy ground, responding to police force. Dozens of our men could be killed, and even worse, Bethlehem would be taken over.” The men looked blindly at Joseph. Most of them didn’t even know what ‘testy’ meant. Aware of this, Joseph sighed. He got up, and walked over to the terrified, seated men. There were seven trembling bodies in total, not including the messenger who brought the lieutenants. He was standing in the corner. Joseph’s silhouette was now more visible, and revealed his devilish smile.
“B- Boss, sir?” Joseph approached the lieutenant who just spoke. The man was incredibly fat, and possessed no facial hair. He was wearing a thick winter coat, which his belly was bulging out of. Joseph proceeded with his speech while glaring at the fat man.
“As I was saying, steps need to be taken to stop the pigs. They’re at our doorstep, and they’ve already taken out quite a few of your men.” Joseph sat on the shoulder of the rotund lieutenant. He crossed his leg casually, and pulled out a toothpick. “What’s going to be done about that?” Joseph said in a lazy tone. He stuck his toothpick in his teeth. The lieutenant glanced around with his eyes. “Well?” Realizing he was being talked to, the fat lieutenant answered,
“I- I- I don’t know, sir. Maybe we could catch ‘em at the stairs, get ‘em that way!” He squeezed his eyes, expecting the worse at any moment. Instead, Joseph said,
“That is a mediocre plan, my large friend. Intercept them at the stairs, a child could make that up. Try again.” The fat man stammered, and blurted out the first thing that came to his head.
“You’re the boss, why ain’t you makin’ the plans?!” He covered his mouth immediately. Joseph backhanded him with fury. It left a grand red mark.
“Hey, I got an idea. Why don’t you, PRETEND TO ACT LIKE YOU’RE ACTUALLY A QUARTER-DECENT BAG OF BLUBBER!” The fat lieutenant was renowned for his brutality and hardiness collecting due payments and shipments. He owned a whip which he often used to set straight subordinates. He was whimpering like a dog. Joseph took out his pistol, and started beating the reduced soul down. The fat man did nothing besides cry for mercy and pray for his life. He would never be getting the former. Halfway through the beatdown, Joseph stopped. He put his pistol to his lieutenant’s large head. He was crying, and groveled at Joseph’s feet.
“Please. . . p-please.” Joseph smiled. He cocked his gun and slowly pulled the trigger while the others watched in horror.

They only encountered one guard on the flight of steps, and Jack (who was taking point) loosed several bullets directly aimed at the thug’s chest. He collapsed, and his corpse rolled down the steps. Jack violently kicked open the metal door, and the SWAT teams burst through. They had made it to the fourth floor.
It was eerily quiet. There were several meth cookers trying to escape, and they held up their hands in submission. The drug cooks were dressed in clean, white uniforms, in contrast to the dark, grimy and unhomely lab. Gus looked around the room. The walls and roof were in complete disrepair, while the windows were all but gone. He could even see the broken glass on the floor. Gus reminded himself not to stray near the windows. Almost everything door was boarded up, and the rest of the room was made of crumbling concrete. There was even a broken pipe leaking petroleum. Once Gus took a sharper look around, he noticed several other pipes in the same condition.
“On the ground!” Jack yelled at the cooks. They did so, cowering with fear. They were never meant for fighting, and were used to the solitude of cooking drugs. Always surrounded with cleanliness and order, the exception being the lab the SWAT were in. Gus’ instincts went off again. Meth labs weren’t supposed to be like this. There were only three stations, with one cook to each station. This lab was an entire floor, yet there were barely enough labs to support the factory’s reputation.
As Jack was forcing the lab cooks on their knees, one of them started a wheezing laughter. Jack walked over.
“Hey, what’s so funny, punk?” The cook kept laughing, then had a coughing fit. He sounded like a smoker. He was balding and missing a few teeth, along with a bad case of warts. He’s lived long enough to see his smoking affect him.
“Oh, lighten up, dogger. No need to get all mad.” The cook wheezed with laughter. He had a rough New Zealand accent, and continued, “It’s na’ like yous gonna live through this hellhole, anyways! Yous all ‘r’ screwed!” The New Zealander coughed up some phlegm.
“What do you mean?” Jack asked, worryingly.
“Don’t concern yourself, mate! Continue to delude yourself that you’ll survive.” His wheezing laughter rang throughout the filthy lab.
Gus walked over to a drug cooking station, and took a look at it. It had the standard layout of all drug cooking station: pipes and tubes everywhere, colorful liquid in boiling pots. This was a meth lab, alright. In a small box, there were several white packages labeled, ‘Coke’. Cocaine. But it didn’t look like the drug at all; real cocaine was more powdery, but the contents of the packages looked more like white clay. The entire lab primarily manufactured crystal meth, with heroin and cocaine being secondary products. Whatever the cooks were making, it wasn’t their cash crop. They were in the wrong room.

Joseph paced back and forth in front of his remaining lieutenants. He had finally decided to turn on his lamp, making the whole scene more visible, therefore more gruesome. The body of the fat lieutenant laid deceased on the ground. Half his head was blown off. The lamp illuminated the rest of the lieutenants’ faces, displaying their shock and disgust. Joseph was simply smiling. He whistling a jaunty tune while he slung his handgun, happy as can be. Killing people always put him in a good mood.
“Now, who can tell me what we need to do?” Everyone was looking at each other, expecting someone to answer. One brave lieutenant finally stood up and said,
“We need to get these stupid pigs outta here. First, we gotta get the docs to a safehouse.” The meth cookers’ nicknames were ‘docs’ or ‘blanks’, in reference to their white lab uniforms and strict demeanor. “Then, weez gotta strike at ‘em, hard ‘n’ fast! Ambush ‘em, one squad at a time! I got some favors in the street, maybe I can call ‘em in. Anythin’ to drive out the fuzz.” All of the lieutenants looked at the young man and his audacity. So did Joseph. He looked impressed, and went over to the lieutenant who just spoke. Barely losing his cool, he stood his ground at Joseph.
“Never seen a man with such balls. Do ya hear that everyone? This guy’s gettin’ a promotion!” Joseph cocked his gun, and opened fire on the other lieutenants. He shot two of them in the head, and slugged one twice in the chest. The others tried to run, but the door was locked. While they were struggling with the door, Joseph shot one in the neck and chest. He shot him once more in the leg, for good measure. The last lieutenant, a burly African-American, was shot in the foot. He screamed in pain, cradling his ankle. The other man twitched on the ground, and Joseph emptied the rest of his magazine to finish him off. The gun clicked. Five bloody corpses lay on the floor. Only the promoted lieutenant, the one shot in the foot, and the messenger was left. The messenger was paralyzed with fear, and the injured one was shivering.
“Three men left,” Joseph said. He laughed. “Perfect. Three Wise Men!” Joseph found this unbearably funny, and laughed even more. “From now on, you guys are my Wise Men!” He chortled with glee. The injured lieutenants was sweating now, and extremely angry at his boss. Not angry enough to stand up to him. “What’re your names, Wise Men?” The brave lieutenant was the first to respond.
“Name’s Arnie Bullock, sir!” The messenger (still shell-shocked) stammered,
“I- I’m Jerry Crannings!”
“I know what your name is, dumbass. What about you, Red Foot?” Taking offense to his new nickname, the injured man replied,
“Malik. Malik Anderson.” Joseph nodded.
“Good,” he said. “Good. However, those names aren’t for the Wise Kings of the Orient.” He pointed at Malik. “Your new name’s Balthasar.” He then looked at Arnie. “You’ll be Caspar, and Jerry will be Melchior.” All of the ‘Wise Men’ nodded. Melchior decided to ask the question that was burning on his mind,
“Uh, ‘scuse me, sir? If we’re the Three Kings of the Orient, we were- uhh, are s’posed to bear gifts of myrrh, frankincense and gold to Baby Jesus and the Virgin Mary? If so, then where’s Jesus and Mary?” Joseph of Arimathea stopped. He had just realized that his sick perversion of the Bible was missing several aspects. He stomped to the office door, turned around, and spoke,
“Your first duty in your new position: find the Virgin Mary.”

Gus strode quickly over to Jack. He had just handcuffed the last meth cook.
“Hey, bro, what’s goin’ on?”
“Get out.”
“What? What’re you-”
“No time to explain. This is the wrong lab.”
“What? But this is the right wing! Briggins told us this was the majority producers!” Jack paused. “Briggins!”
“Don’t blame this on him. All we know, they could be waiting to ambush us.” Gus suddenly came to a realization. “Get out. Go! Go! Go! GO!” Jack didn’t stop to question him this time.
“Everyone, GET OUT!” Every cop in the west wing blindly sprinted towards the door, while the cooks stood by helplessly. Gus could faintly hear a beeping noise. It was instantly recognizable as a bomb. C4, Gus thought. I should’ve known something was wrong with the coke. I should’ve known it was C4 from the start. Just when Gus crossed the doorway, the ‘coke’ blew up.

Everything went quiet for a moment. Then, chaos. There was a large, ear-piercing BA-ROOM! Fiery shrapnel flew everywhere, literally raining concrete and wood. A few slow and unlucky SWAT were caught in the blast radius, their bodies mangled and shreded to bloody pieces. No time to even scream. At least two men fell down, dazed or dead. The C4 was still ringing in their ears, and Gus could tell someone went deaf. The exit they escaped out of was mainly caved-in so you could just see the room. Even if it wasn’t caved-in, there was no way they would go back in there. Somehow, there were flames in the smoking wreckage of the room, probably from the many gas leaks.
Jack ran up to Gus. He was out of breath from sprinting the way he did.
“Gus, man. . .” he said between breaths. “Thank you.” He patted Gus on the shoulder and walked away. He took a head count: three men were dead or wounded, lying crippled and still bleeding. One person was unconscious, and another one was barely so. He was holding his head and screaming in pain. Gus didn’t even see a couple of the men. Unfortunately, John Doe was there, safe and sound. He looked like the thing never happened.
“Okay, everyone,” Jack breathed, “it looks like we’re gonna have to find a different way in.”

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