Young Anthony’s training was rigorous and contained a variety of exercises. His second father would take him out to the jungle to practice the kalis and kris while at the same time teaching him the others skills he might need in combat. It was important that the young man was as well rounded as possible and instead of becoming overtly muscular like some of the Balinese tribesmen who had arms like tree trunks, but could not move with the grace as a slimmer man. Wayan’s goal was to mold Anthony in his own image, lean and lithe with a clear definition. It was what had made him such a phenomenal and sought after soldier of fortune throughout the isles. Wayan sent him climbing trees to hone the strength in legs and finger strength and from the tops leap from milk wood to milk wood. Pushing off and grabbing on to the twisted branches and swinging on to the next one. He would hang upside down for hours, from time to time sitting up to tone his stomach muscles for a strong core was the key to controlling the body. Some mornings they would venture to the coast and leap from the white cliffs into the clear blue water repeatedly doing flips, spins and rolls into the deep. As the years passed Anthony notice his body changing from the softness of childhood to the toned solidity of a Balinese warrior. He scaled the trees and rock walls with ease, somersaulted without using his hands and could avoid the reeds that Wayan tried to slap him with while he tried to slice the sticks placed in a circle around. As he matured into a young man he was also evolving into a tanned and toned soldier.
Entering the building had been the easy part. Everything had been as they had been told. The guards were doing their rounds so were away from the front desk so they avoided unwanted questions and whatever nurses who might have been on duty in the middle of the night paid little attention to them as they walked with a purpose. Thorne carried a snub nosed revolver in a holster under his suit jacket, while Charles and Jensen each had sawed off shotguns strapped under their armpits, hidden by their coats. Sure it would make noise once they offed the police officers and the snitch, but that was how they liked it and at this hour they would be out of the hospital long before the boys in blue had a chance to even get into their cars. The security guards they wanted to avoid before they reached their destination since they most likely ask them some uncomfortable questions and they would be forced to kill them on the spot and they didn’t want to have to do that so early on. Quickly they entered the elevator and rode it up to the fifth floor. It landed there with a friendly ‘ding’ and the doors gently eased open to reveal the white corridors of level five. The first hing that greeted them, and with open arms no less, was the likeness of the Virgin Mary. A full body statue made from red stone stood before them, eyes downcast with a look of sadness on her face. Charles, the religious one of the group, swallowed hard, which he always did when confronted with his Catholic beliefs and made the sign of the cross as the others passed with smirks on their faces, Jensen even rolled his eyes.
As they moved along the corridor, past several doors, with only the sound of their shoes on the wooden floor, they could hear voices, most likely coming from the reception area. Thorne stopped and put his arm to halt his friends. He listened intently, two voices; a man and a woman. Probably a nurse and a security guard or possibly a cop. He put his hand in his under his coat and cocked his revolver and at the same time he could hear Jensen and Charles ready their shotguns. He nodded and they continued to walk.
Luckily enough it had not rained the past couple of days, but the night air added its own brand of dampness to the roof on which Tony was crawling. Seeing as how he was still wearing The Face it was foolish to try to enter the hospital through the front entrance and he felt he had gotten quite adept at opening windows from the outside. He walked on all fours, gingerly placing one foot and one hand down at the same time, looking like a camel against the moonlight. He could of course have walked upright, the roof of the building was completely flat, but he didn’t want to raise suspicions among nightwalkers, who might begin to wonder at the shape atop the hospital in the middle of the night. He had scoped out the structure from across the street before scaling the walls and believed he knew where the room was located. Climbing the brick building was not a problem as he swung from nook to cranny, rested on window ledges until he finally swung over the roof top. He had chosen to move up on the back of St. Mary’s so he would be forced to cross the roof due to the fact that room 506 was facing Grand Avenue that ran outside. Anything to avoid detection. Once he had reached the opposite end he leapt down onto a balcony that replaced the seventh floor level at the end facing the street. Swiftly he jumped up on the railing turned so that his back faced the street and dropped down, only to catch the edge of the balcony with his hands, allowing him to hang from it. He had positioned himself so that he was hanging perpendicular to the window below, all he needed to do was drop down and catch himself on the sixth floor windowsill and he did. He felt his shoulders strain from the pull of the drop and catch, but his toned arm muscles could handle it. He swung from side to side in order to steady himself. He through a glance below to make sure that there still was a window there. He wanted to move quickly because he was out in the open for all to see, the exact thing he was trying to avoid. He repeated the previous motion and once again felt the strain as his fingers caught the edge of the sill, he winced, this time it hurt. As he passed the glass he saw the light from the inside and two policemen standing with their backs to the window.
As they turned round the corner that led from the corridor to the reception area the trio saw the big desk and behind it a blond nurse most likely in her twenties. She was in an engaging conversation with one of the elderly security guards who was leaning over the desk and resting on his elbows as they walked up in a neat row. The guard fell silent when he noticed them and the nurse soon followed suit once she noticed that something was amiss. The setting was ideal for them, they had met their first obstacle exactly where they had wanted it to happen, in the open area of the reception. The hallways would have been too narrow to maneuver and their would have always been the risk of being hit by a random spray of shotgun pellets. They had a clear view of the corridors that branched off from the hub as well as the two adjoining wash rooms. The guard straightened up and pulled his pants up by way of tugging at his belt, unclear if it was supposed to look menacing or not. He moved some gray strands that had fallen behind his right ear and moved it across the bald spot that was the top of his head.
‘Hello there fellas, what do you need?’ He said in a quivering voice, placing his right hand on the pistol at his hip. There was perspiration on the top of his lip and his fingers twitched.
‘ Where here to visit a buddy.’ Thorne took charge. ‘Martin Lindquist in room 506.’
‘Visiting hours are over.’ The nurse said, with quite the decisive tone, as she picked up the black receiver of her internal phone.
‘I think we’ll see him anyway.’ Thorne shrugged and looked at the others.
‘We have special permission.’ Charles chimed in.
The nurse went for the numbers on the telephone as the guard upholstered the pistol. ‘I’m going to have to ask you to leave.’ He said in a harsh, but broken tone.
Thornes revolver barked loudly as he fired at the nurse. As she was turned towards him at that instant, with her finger hovering above the call button the bullet hit her squarely in the center of her forehead sending a spray of blood, skull fragments and gray matter behind her. Limply her body collapsed to the floor, bouncing off the desk first. The movement of leveling the weapon at the now expired woman had caused Thorne to stand sideways so when the security guard’s pistol fired it tore a hole in his coat instead of his chest. The elderly man emptied his clip continuously in the same general area in quick succession and as the weapon clicked a blast from Thorne’s right side sent the lower half of his body to explode in a wave of red. The shotgun blast from Jensen had nearly cut him in half and he was now gasping for breath in a pool of crimson and innards. Once the ringing in their ears had stopped they could hear the footsteps of the police officers approaching.
Tony hadn’t quite figured out how he was going to enter the building. First off he hadn’t scoped out where the police officers watching over the man would be standing. In his ignorance he had figured they would be in room 506, but they were obviously standing outside, that complicated things. He looked to the left, where he assumed the room was located, but there was no window there, and he was just about to swing to his right when he noticed that the officer moved down the corridor at some speed. Tony pulled himself up do that he was resting on straight arms, unsheathed his kris with his right hand while balancing on the left and slid the blade under the window frame. He pushed down on it and the window opened and to avoid having to go through it again he quickly shoved his fingers in the crack before it fell back down. The kris fell and he saw it tumble down to the ground below, he’d have to recover it once he was done. With some effort he pushed the window upward wile still balancing on his left hand and swung both his legs over the sill so that he could slide inside. He heard shouting and the unmistakable deafening sounds of gunfire coming from down the hall. He unsheathed the kalis and brought it round, he shook his arms to get the blood flowing through them, he was not prepared for whatever might lie ahead and he was not too keen on the prospect of a fight with rubbery, lactic acid filled limbs. He noticed that he was standing outside room 506 and slipped behind the door. The room was dark except for the machines that lit up the form of the young man who lay in the bed, covered by a single sheet. His eyes were open, the noise from outside most likely had woken him up, Tony could see two tiny pinpricks reflected in the orbs. It was tense, the man obviously could not quite see him as he stood there; a silhouette against the light that escaped the door.
The old man let out one final breath as Jensen walked over to him. He had wanted to end it with another blast, but he had been saved the trouble of wasting another shell. Suddenly one of the bathroom doors burst open and another elderly guard appeared, gun held high. This one had a flat top haircut and a barrel chest reminiscent of a marine. At the same time the two police officers came round the corner, both aiming slide action shotguns at anyone who might be in their way and screaming at the trio to drop their guns and get down on the ground.. Jensen became confused at where to focus his attention being that he was in the middle of two threats and that Charles could not use his weapon for fear of hitting him as well. Thorne took out one of the policemen by firing three shot into his chest and he fell over and skid across the floor leaving a trail of red. At the same instant the guard fired at Jensen, who tried to spin out of harms way, but was struck in the shoulder. He dropped to a knee, just as the second officer fired sending shots his way and blowing his hat off and scraping his scalp. It gave Charles the opening he needed and aiming high he sent a hail of shots towards the head of the second officer, who catching only some of it, dropped his rifle and doubled over. The guard, still standing on the threshold of the bathroom leaning against the door to hinder it from closing on him and forcing him to move, pointed his gun at Jensen who was still kneeling in the lake of blood. He squeezed the trigger, but the thug had already rolled forward in a tumble over the dead body of the other guard causing his coat to become soaked in crimson, coagulating liquid. Charles was busy reloading his weapon thinking to himself that he should have brought something capable of firing more than two shots at a time, rather than going for an item with the destructive power of his double barreled sawed off piece. Thorne spent his remaining two bullets in his revolver on the guard who vanished back into the bathroom with the door taking the hits as it swung back and forth on its hinges. Thorne cursed and tossed his weapon to the side and headed over to the downed officer. Jensen rolled to his feet in front of the wounded policeman who was clutching his face after the pellets had dug themselves into his skin and he shoved the double barrels of his gun into the man’s chest. The blew right through the upper torso, coloring the ceiling a deep red and making parts of lungs, the heart and bone fragments rain down. Jensen used the man’s body as an umbrella, still holding the body up with his shotgun. After the rain had stopped Jensen dumped the body to the side and rose, covered in blood and gore, he turned to Thorne who had just ripped the weapon from the hands of the other police officer and was joined by Charles, whose shotgun was locked and loaded.
‘We’re wasting time.’ Thorne claimed. ‘We need to get on with it. The traitor need to be silenced and the guard in the bathroom need to be dealt with so that we can get out of here. I’m sure we’ve made enough noise to alert the authorities.’
‘If nothing else these guys have already used their radios to call the station.’ Charles pointed to the police radios attached to the shoulders of the dead men.
‘I’ll take the old man in the toilet.’ Jensen said as he reloaded his shotgun, after pulling it out of the dead body. ‘You guys take care of that Lindquist kid.’ He went for the doorknob of the bathroom but found that it was locked. He sighed and nodded to the others to go.
Martin Lindquist was paralyzed in his hospital bed. He had been woken from a feverish dream, glowing red eyes coming at him in the dark, by gunfire. There was running outside his the room and he slowly came to the realization that his days were numbered. He knew enough of organized crime and the one he had infiltrated in particular how these things usually went down. He had once been part of a similar incident when going out with Baz Peterson. A small time dealer had threatened to blow the whistle, to go to the cops, and the big boss had wanted him taken care of. Baz, Martin and some guy referred to as Rosy Anderson went uptown to meet the man. He ended up being dumped off the sixth street bridge and into the Root River with several bullet holes in his body. Rosy had wanted to torture and string him up as a warning, but Black Diamond, whoever or whatever that was, wanted no trail, nothing that could lead to questions. Even though Martin had taken no part in the killing he had witnessed the cold action by the two men. They had given no quarter, just entered his apartment, pulled him out and emptied their guns into his body, he hadn’t even gotten the chance to defend himself. This was what awaited him. Sure the police officers on duty might be able to delay the inevitable, but if the men coming for him were anything like Peterson they didn’t stand a chance.
The door to his room gently opened and he steeled himself for what was about to come, but instead of the barrage of bullets that he was expecting to riddle his body a figure slipped in through the small crack of the opening. He it happened so fast and the light from the outside temporarily blinded him so that he couldn’t make out the figure clearly. As his eyesight slowly adjusted back to the dark of the room he stared at the person, who remained at the door seemingly listening for what was going on outside the room. It looked as if the figure was naked, but as he concentrated Martin could see the shape of boots on the feet and gloves covering the hands and the head… The head had a strange shape, not the type of irregular silhouette created by back lit hair, but caused by something else and when the figure looked at him he saw the red glow of two very familiar eyes; it was the thing from his dreams. He started to squirm and as he did the thing quickly moved towards him, in his hands it carried that nasty, wavy blade he had used to separate Martin’s leg from the rest of him. He began to shudder and opened his mouth to scream when a gloved hand covered his mouth. The light from the little lamps on the machinery next to his bed lit the beast partially and showed a figure dressed in a skin tight suit in blue and red, a spiked belt at the waist and a terrible, angular face with fangs and a sharp nose, piercing red eyes staring right through his very soul.
The figure slowly raised the blade to its mouth that at the moment was closed so that the fangs protruding from the lower jaw was the only thing visible. ‘Be quite.’ It hissed in the voice of someone wearing a mask, a man. ‘I’m not here to hurt you, I need your help, but we don’t have time to talk now.’ The sounds of battle had stopped and Martin could hear two sets of feet come closer to his room. ‘Hang a pillowcase in the window outside your room if and when you want to talk so that we can take this organization down.’
Martin nodded and the dressed up man slowly backed towards the door.
Down the hall Charles and Thorne could hear Jensen trying to force the bathroom door open by shouldering and alternately kicking it, but without success and he didn’t want to waste another shell by blowing the lock off. It was understandable that he didn’t want stand with only one round left, facing a possible hail of bullets. With their weapons at the ready Thorne grabbed the door handle of room 506 and turned it. Without warning the door flew open with force and knocked Thorne over, crashing into his head first. He rolled over to the wall and tried to find his bearings. His hat had flown off and there was a deep gash in his forehead causing blood to flow down his face. He was disoriented, probably concussed and attempted to resume his upright position climbing the wall with his left hand. Charles had jumped back when the door opened and had seen his colleague get knocked down. Instinctively he pulled the trigger of his gun and blasted a hole in the door. It swung back slowly and he could clearly see that there was no one behind it. He sidled up next to the hole with his gun raised and slowly moved his hand towards the handle trying to avoid the crater left from his shot. It caused his arm and the right side of his upper torso to cover the door, but he had no other choice, he wasn’t about to become visible through his own handy work. It was still, apart from Jensen working on the bathroom and Throne struggling to get to his feet and breathing heavily.
Tony had stepped back into the dark once he had kicked the door open. He had planned for it to catch whomever was trying to enter by surprise and he was fairly certain it had succeeded, at least the door had hit a body on the other side and the shotgun blast affirmed his belief that hostility was behind it all. As he backed off he caught a glimpse through the hole and saw a man in a trench coat and dark suit clambering against the wall with blood pouring from a nasty wound in his head. It made him fairly certain that whoever were in the hallway had bad intentions on their minds. The door moved ever so slightly, as if it shivered at the touch from someone on the other side. Tony rolled his shoulders to try to loosen them up from the strain of the climb. Once the handle began to move again he flipped the blade so that it pointed towards the floor and the pounced. The point of the kalis dug through the wood like so much soft butter and he felt it cut into something very different on the other side. A man cried out and Tony pulled his weapon free, tumbling backwards on the floor and coming to standing position, reversing his momentum he ran forward and like a long jumper he leapt into the air and planted both his boots on the door, sending it flying off its hinges. He landed on his back, relaxing his body to avoid injury and risk of losing his breath.
Just when Charles had reached the handle of the door he felt a sharp, biting pain in his shoulder blade. He had always prided himself in not showing weakness when hurt, but the pain from whatever it was now digging into his body was too much for him to bare. White hot and ice cold at the same time as steel cut through muscle, sinew and tissue, grinding against bone and then the intrusion vanished, but the pain remained. He slumped against the door, feeling the warmth of his blood freely flow under his suit, down his entire body and pooling in his shoes. Thorne had risen and was leaning against the opposite wall, his friend’s cry of pain had jarred him and now the were staring at one another, both bloodied, both breathing heavily, both furious. He could see it in Charles’ eyes, there was a fiery rage there that usually spelled the end for those who might try to oppose them. They had both been hurt before, it was nothing new to people in their line of work. They had powered through it and always ended on top, that is how you stayed relevant and in demand, it was not going to be any different this night. Whomever was hiding in that room, be it Lindquist, another cop or something else they were going to meet their maker and it was going to hurt. Everything seemed to move in slow motion as Thorne cocked his revolver he had managed to recover from the floor. It was sticky with his blood, but it would serve its purpose. Before he could make another move the door flew out once again, this time off the frame itself, most likely due to the integrity of it had already been compromised. Charles was knocked off his feet and flew like a rag doll across the hallway and crashed into the same wall Thorne was leaning against. Sliding to the floor his body left a bloody print on the white paint tracing his trajectory. Thorne stared into the opening left by the missing door and saw a pair of red points in the dark and figure that slowly rose from a crouching position and as it unfolded a long wavy sword appeared at its side. He raised his revolver and fired, but the figure was no longer there, instead it was next to him. A quick movement before Thorne’s face and the revolver clattered to the floor with his hand still clutching it. He stared at his hand as it bounced on the floor and he blinked at it in disbelief and then looked up, staring into a horrible face with huge incisors, red piercing eyes and a nasty snarl and then he faded into darkness.
The man he had seen through the hole in the door previously collapsed on the floor following his hand, briefly the united in a heap. Another man, dressed exactly like the first one lay against the wall, blood flowing in a constant stream from somewhere. Tony assumed it was the one who had been behind the door the second time. The man was panting heavily and stared at him in fear, at the Face to be more precise. He momentarily glanced over to his right and Tony followed his gaze to a sawed off shotgun. He kicked it down the hall and the man shook in fear at what was going to happen next, but Tony let him be, he needed survivors and in the following instant he heard a shotgun blast and the sound of splitting wood coming from the reception area, he hurried off, leaving the two men to their bleeding.
Jensen had become fed up with trying to break down the door by his physical force alone. He was wasting time and the law would arrive at the scene at any moment. He needed the witness done with and out of his hair so to speak. There was commotion over by room 506, his colleagues were seemingly running into more trouble than they had bargained for, but he was fairly convinced that they would deal with it accordingly. One shot from his gun was all it took to blow the door open. He aimed for the lock and half the door and some of the frame had sent splinters flying both through the bathroom and the hallway. His ears played that familiar ringing tune in his ears that only a well played shotgun could produce. The door swung out on its hinges and was followed by a couple of bullets that passed through his coat. He stepped back and loaded another shell into the spent chamber and walked inside to an empty bathroom. The sinks were to his right and on the opposite were three stalls, all of which had their doors shut tight. This was going to be both easy and fun for him. He chuckled as he took careful steps forward and then he caught something in the mirrors hanging above the sinks. It appeared to be a figure in a tight fitting suit of red and blue, but the thing that had caught his eye at first were the two points of light that seemingly emanated from two eyes situated in a ghastly face. He spun round and fired a round back from where he had come, but the doorway was empty and now he stood there with only one round left in his smoking shotgun. The figure stepped into the doorway again, Jensen was relieved that his mind hadn’t played a trick on him. It stood at least six feet, lean and muscular dressed in a skintight fabric and that awful face was obviously a mask now that he got a good look at it with its fangs, protruding red eyes and horn like appendages. The man, for a man it most likely was, held a wavy sword in his right hand, slick with blood. Jensen didn’t think he acted and fired his second shot at the man who slid across the floor to avoid the blast and caught his shin with his boot. Jensen toppled forward, gun flying, and would have landed on his opponent had he not rolled past him. He landed hard, losing his wind and getting tangled in his coat. The trio was unused to this kind of combat, they would more often than not get in, kill and then leave. After what seemed like forever he managed to get to a standing position and in the process had fished his switchblade from his back pocket. The man in the mask was also up, standing with his sword at his side, facing Jensen who was crouching with his own blade at the ready. He lashed out aiming for the man’s abdomen, he wanted his death to be painful and slow. The figure sidestepped and Jensen jabbed at thin air and as he hyper extended he left himself open to a knee to the ribs. Once again the wind went out of him and he felt the wet snap of bones breaking in his chest. Struggling for breath he moved sideways and fell against one of the stall doors, one hand on his torso and the other still clutching the knife. The figure strode towards him with great calm, the blade still calmly at his side. Jensen thought he could hear the sounds of sirens in the distance and coughed as he tried to take a deep breath. He furrowed his brow and let out a gargled scream as he flew at the enemy.
Tony sidestepped the man, also dressed like the two he had already combated, who came at him while trying to scream although it more sounded like the gurgling when someone drinks from a bubbler. He blocked the switchblade coming at him with his left arm and then pierced his gut with the kalis, pushing his entire weight back so that it went clean through and dug deep into the door behind. The man’s eyes went wide and Tony could see his pupils dilate as he struggled with the reality of his new found situation. Blood bubbled up through his mouth and his hands struggled to grab The Face in one last desperate attempt at winning the battle. Tony quickly released him by pulling the kalis out, out from the wood of the door and the soft tissue of the man’s abdomen. With a final gasp his eyes went blank as he slowly slid down to the tiled floor and lay in an unnatural pile. Tony has also heard the sirens outside and decided then and there that he dared not take a chance at talking to Lindquist when the police more than likely were bounding up the stairs. To go out through the window he came would be madness, he would most likely get caught or at least be noticed, he ran back to the reception area calculated in his head where the streets outside lay from his vantage point and then moved through another room where an old woman lay petrified with her covers pulled up to her chin as he flung the window open and vanished into the night.
It all started, like it always did, with a shipwreck. This one ended up happening in Indonesia, off the coast of Bali in fact. Johnathan Hill, who had been in the British navy, was a confident swimmer and easily saved his wife and their infant son and they crawled onto the beach and into the arms of the Dutch rulers of the island. Luckily for the Hills that they were headed to Bali as Mr. Hill had been sent there as a cultural attaché, so once they were cleaned up and leant clean clothes they were presented to the ruler of the Dutch East Indies. The family, which consisted of Johnathan, Patricia and little Anthony, were soon moved into one of the islands finer homes made from wood, with a wraparound porch and a straw roof held up by intricately carved pillars. The house was situated on a grassy knoll shortly after their arrival dubbed Busut Busut, Busut being Indonesian for Hill, and Mrs. Hill would sit in a rocking chair on the veranda gazing at the sun reflecting in the meeting of the Pacific and Indian Oceans before her. It was a perfect existence for her; the climate, the culture, the native servants there at her beck and call and she loved the food, which was surprising because of her sensitive digestion. It was a very different lifestyle than she was accustomed to, but had become more comfortable with it following her marriage. She was of a lower caste than her husband, who came from a long line of barristers and whose family was in great standing in London.
Mr. Hill spent most of his days in Batavia in close proximity to the Governor-General, assisting him in administration, but he managed to see his wife and son more than most government officials. All in all the first years of young Anthony’s life were filled with warmth, love and tropical adventure.
Garfield Teague stepped out of his car and tried to straighten out his coat in the process. He had never understood why his wife kept insisting that he have it pressed when it always creased as soon as he climbed into his vehicle. He removed his hat and ran a hand through his red hair; trying to make sure the part was in place, he had been very generous with the brylcreem this morning to ensure his coiffure stay in position. He fished a silver case from inside his blue pinstriped suit jacket, but thought better of it before producing a cigarette and let it slide back into the recesses of fabric. He walked over to the parking structure on the corner of Main and 7th and halted by one of the three black and whites parked on the curb, blue lights flashing almost indistinctly in the morning sun. Teague gently placed the fedora on his head and followed it by stroking his neatly cropped beard as his hand slid into a pant pocket.
‘Detective Teague’ a young officer called him over to the parking garage entrance.
‘What have we got here, Officer Boden?’ Teague asked as he approached and realized that he had taken out the cigarette case again.
‘Well it seems to be some kind of mob hit Sir’ the young man eyed his notebook. ‘Lang was first on the scene and is still down there. All I know is that there is blood everywhere, casings all over the floor and one survivor.’
‘Got it’ Teague replied and headed through the glass door and down the stone steps. His black patent leather shoes echoed in the stairwell and was slowly drowned out by chatter from the lower level. He toyed with the case and flipped it over in his hand, a nervous tick he had developed the same week his dying father had placed it in his hands. As he descended he watched his hand turn it from the back with its fleur-de-lis pattern to the front with his father’s initials; R.T.
Another street cop opened the door for him when he reached the basement floor and gave him a quick two- finger salute by touching his digits to the brim of his cap. Teague did not return the gesture, maintaining his reputation as arrogant. The otherwise so sparsely lit lower level was completely illuminated by various lamps and floodlights. In the center two vehicles were parked, a well-cared for Chrysler and a not- so- well tended truck of unknown make. They faced each other, like two lovers about to share a kiss and the symbolism made Teague miss his wife. The closer he got, the more sinister the scene before him became; Officers and medical personnel surrounded the silent cars that were both riddled with bullet holes and six white sheets littered the floor. Stains of various sizes and shapes cover a large area, reminding him of one of those Jackson Pollock paintings he had seen in the paper once. He wasn’t much of an art coinsure and most of what he had seen on field trips as a child had never tickled his fancy, but that painting, Cathedral it was called, had spoken to him. It forced him to think, like a crime or mystery that needed to be solved, he liked it, but the splatter across the grey concrete painted a very different mystery.
“It’s one hell of a scene Teague.” The voice woke him from the trance-like state he had ended up in. It was Detective Greg Glade, a rotund man wearing his brown beard and hair cropped to the same length and a nervous disposition.
“Glade,” Teague forced a smile. He had never been especially fond of the younger Detective, whom he found trying, mainly due to his defeatist attitude. “Where you the first detective on the scene?”
“Yessir. It looks like we’re working together on this one.”
“Great,” Teague turned to the rest of the scene instead and tried to survey the area.
“We’ve got six bodies laid out both here and there and that goes for the different parts as well.” Glade snickered as he mentioned that tidbit. “Most likely a mob hit or a drop off gone awry. Maybe buyer and seller couldn’t agree on a price.”
“So they took each other out?” Teague rounded the truck and inspected the crates, bent down and removed one the blood stained sheets from a body. He quickly rose and stepped back and dropped the fabric back on the headless shape. “Doesn’t seem likely” he stifled his urge to vomit. “The crates being left here would maybe indicate that, but this man was decapitated and unless you have found a sword, machete, axe or a large kitchen knife here something else is going on. Have you found such an item?”
Glade thumbed through his notebook. “Not that I can see.”
“Well then, something sinister is going on here. I would assume that all these guys pissed off the wrong person and paid a high price for it.”
“There is one survivor” Glade interrupted. “He’s at St. Mary’s I guess.”
“Right,” Teague flipped his cigarette case over in his hand again. “Not much more to do here, you stay here and spearhead the investigation on the bodies. I’ll head to the hospital.”
Tony Hill stepped into the offices of WRJN News Radio Station it was 11:30 a.m. He had thanked his lucky stars that he had managed to find a job that checked so many of his boxes. It was fun, challenging at times, allowed him to start later in the day and became a vital piece in the puzzle he was trying to lay. He slung his coat across his right arm and removed his hat, quietly placing it on the coatrack, followed by the coat.
“Good day Mr. Hill.” The sweet voice of the leggy Lindsey Jones greeted him as he turned around. “Here is the sheet for the one o’clock broadcast. Big things happening.” Tony raised an eyebrow and grabbed the piece of paper. “A shooting downtown, several dead.”
“Well our listeners will get their money’s worth today. Is there any possibility of getting a representative from the force into the studio for a word?”
“I don’t know” Miss Jones replied. “I will get right on it Mr. Hill.” She hurried off at a controlled pace.
Tony kept his eye on her for as long as he could, until she rounded a corner and was out of sight. He glanced at the paper again and ran his fingers through his blond hair, making sure everything was in order.
“Hill!” A burly man in a tight-fitting beige suit and vest with a red and white tie askew stepped in front of him and slapped him on his arm. Tony tried not to wince as the ham hock of a hand hit the spot where the bullet winged him the previous night. Vic Linden was the station manager of WRJN and answered directly to the owner. His management style could be described as rabid and his conversation always came screaming with a side order of saliva. “I see you have been given the five o’clock new report already. This is a big deal, shit is hitting the fan, mark my words; we are going to have a war on our hands mics and scandihoovians.”
“You think so Sir?” Hill replied while keeping his eyes on the sheet. Linden was a visage that would cause a nauseous reaction to anyone who stared at him too long. A face full of craters, a constant sheen of sweat and a tie that was never tied properly because he was unable to button the top button of his shirts.
“Details are still coming in. We don’t know exactly who has been killed, how many or why, but sources at the precinct say it’s a blood bath and that can only mean one thing: the mob.” Linden put a frayed cigar in his mouth and tried to light it, but couldn’t get his Zippo to ignite. He looked at Hill and shrugged at him in an expectant way, but Tony shook his head to show that he didn’t carry a light.
“Anyway,” the station manager said in a frustrated tone. “You need to present this report with all the gravitas it requires. Dig deep, speculate, you know, that whole spiel.”
“I have sent Miss Jones to inquire about the Chief of Police. Too have him on the show.”
“Excellent, we’ll have them glued to their sets as if it were the President’s State of the Union.” Linden once again tried to light his cigar, met with the same difficulties and then flung the Zippo into a nearby garbage can. “Make this good Hill, I’m counting on you.”
Tony waited for his boss to head down the corridor and then walked in the opposite direction towards his own office. Having the Chief on the news would serve him two ways. One, it would be great for the ratings, improving numbers that would already be stellar for the show based on the content alone. Two, it would give him the answers he needed to persue his next move. It was all going to fall into place.
On June 27th of this year (2016) Tim Ellis of CKRTLAB announced on facebook that he was interested in drawing some mashups based on Public Domain superheroes. He asked his followers to suggest two PD heroes every week and he would create a mashup to the best of his ability. One of these creations was Death Mask, a mashup of Matt Bailey’s The Face and Jack Binder & Jack Cole’s Daredevil. The image intrigued me and I immediately began thinking of a story to accompany this character. I will try to update this story as often as I can, but with All the Children Shall Lead and other writing assignments I am uncertain how often that will be, but for now enjoy…
-C. Marry Hultman
He wasn’t nervous, that was what was odd about the whole thing, that he wasn’t nervous. Throughout the preparations and the decisions leading him to this point his heart had been racing. At night, when he lay on that lumpy mattress on his rod iron bed frame and the light from the neon sign filtered through the Venetian blinds, cutting the darkness of his studio apartment the pulsating of his blood played on his eardrums like an old man plays a Kendang. At first the lack of sleep and the stress of it all had affected his work, causing several reports to be late, him losing his train of thought when reading the news and his colleagues suspecting him of having caught the flu, it had even gotten so bad that the station manager, a Mr. Cosgrove, had called him in to the office to have a word with him. A weekend of R&R and the blowhard Johnny Summers filling in for him and he had been right as rain. The past week had seen him back to his old self, managing to work, train and put the finishing touches to his suit. He had finally managed to figure out what to do with the twin Kris he had decided to use. Traditionally the sheath, or warangka, stuck in a warrior’s belt, but he had found that the wave shaped blades only fell out when he moved around. He had constructed dual warangakas into the suit itself, placed on his back for easy reachability.
He leaned his back against one of the many thick stone pillars that kept the lower level of the parking structure from being crushed by the three levels above it and slowly slid down to a seated position. He placed the mask on the concrete floor next to him and sighed. The Face looked back at him, the grin with fangs protruding from the lower jaw, the red eyes and the horns on either side of the crown. It was as if it was challenging him; You do not have the fortitude for this endeavor. You do not have what it takes for what is to come. It seemed to say and he looked away in response to this attack on his person.
Then there was a sound, the unmistakable noise of a car reverberating through the empty level. He swung his head round the pillar, making sure most of his body was still hidden behind the safety of manmade stone. Two round headlights cut through the sparsely lit area and headed for the center of the structure where it came to a halt. The engine cut out and the lights faded as three men exited the Chrysler Imperial and headed to the front of it. They were all wearing trench coats and hats. It was hard to tell, but he was fairly confident that at least two of them were hiding machine guns, the others were armed as well he had no doubt. His fingers were twitching, he was ready to pounce, but had to bide his time. And then it came, the sign he was looking for; another vehicle cast its headlight through the gloom of reinforced concrete and painted outlines. It was larger than the Chrysler, the sound bouncing off the walls told him so and it was headed towards the waiting party, only fifty or so feet from where he was hiding. He cracked his knuckles and twisted his head from side to side, he had limbered up for a good hour earlier, but the wait had stiffened him some and he hoped it was not going to hinder what he needed his body to do in the coming moments.
As the truck swung around and stopped, facing the Chrysler he grabbed the face and pulled it over his head. He gently flattened it out over his scalp and tugged at the chin to make it sit comfortably and to make sure that it appeared flawless, like his second skin. He moved his jaw and the mouth of the face moved as his did and he could see perfectly clear through the eye sockets, heightened in fact. It was time. He gently patted his outside thighs for luck and bounded up the pillar to the rafters.
Peterson, Anderson and Camp climbed out of the Chrysler as soon as Hammer had cut the engine. Anderson pulled a pack of smokes from deep inside his grey coat and Camp made a similar motion, but instead produced a hand full of chew. Peterson eyed them both and raised a skeptical eyebrow, which he always did whenever something struck him as against his code of normalcy. He was wearing a fedora and with a thumb pushed it from his forehead so he could get a full view of the parking structure.
Hammer, the youngling of the group had climbed out of the driver’s seat and leaned on the hood trying to impress his elders by rolling his own cigarette, without success.
‘What the hell you doing?’ Anderson snarled at the young man with his own cigarette dangling from his lips. ‘You’re getting most of the tobacco on the floor.’
Hammer took off his flat cap and scratched his head. ‘My Pa always makes it look so simple’ he replied, noticeably flustered. ‘But I can never get the hang of it.’
Anderson held out his pack of Luckies and offered it to Hammer, who gladly accepted it, pulled one out and lit it. Camp patted the side of his coat and eyed the others. His hand touched the hard surface of an automatic carbine under the fabric, Anderson was carrying a shotgun while Peterson who was, for all intents and purposes, the point man on this particular operation had always favored revolvers. The kid was probably carrying something as well, Camp did not really care. He was not especially fond of that little punk; he was no more than a goon that Peterson had saved from the streets. He had been a hockey player of all things, a failed one at that. Trying to make his fortune on the ice, but had lacked the skills and more or less spent more time in the penalty box than on the skates. At least that was the word going round. What was the business coming to when any old kid could be picked off of the streets and welcomed with open arms, no questions asked? Camp spit on the ground and gave a snort.
Peterson picked up a pocket watch from his vest and eyed it carefully. It was just about one a.m. and everything was so far going according to plan. He tapped his wing tipped shoes against the stone floor and eyed his companions. ‘These late night pick-ups are going to be the death of me’ he ventured a smile in Anderson’s direction. ‘We sure ain’t as young as we used to be, are we Rosy?’ Anderson shrugged his shoulders and lit another cigarette on the butt already hanging from his thin lips. A wet splat echoed through the desolated building and Camp wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his beige coat.
‘So when’s the merch coming?’ he asked once he noticed that the others were eyeing his behavior.
‘Well if everything goes according to plan and they don’t get ambushed by the coppers or rivals they should be here any minute’ Peterson replied.
Before Camp could make a statement about the tardiness of others, he did have a wife and five young kids he would much rather be with then standing in a cold parking garage waiting for some micks with a truck, when he heard them approach. Anderson dropped his cigarette and stepped on it, placing a hand inside his coat, while Hammer snapped to attention and headed to the passenger side of the car in case he would need the cover. Peterson remained still, with a calm which can only come from a man with twenty years of experience with back alley drop offs and pick-ups, but in the corner of his eye he could have sworn that he saw movement deep in the dim recesses of garage.
The truck, it looked like an old farm truck from the 1930s, parked in front of them the headlights lighting up their forms and casting ghostly shadows on the back wall. Peterson fingered the snub nosed revolver holstered in the small of his back. He may be blinded, but if shit hit the fan he was damn sure going to take some of those bastards with him. The lights shut off and they were blind once again, their eyes now unaccustomed to the darkness.
Three figures appeared once sight returned to normal, two from the front and one leaping off the bed of the vehicle. They were all dressed in a similar fashion; black slacks with suspenders over white dress shirts and caps on their heads. Peterson rolled his eyes and whistled at the clichés walking towards him. The man who had stepped out of the driver’s seat stuck out his right hand in greeting and scratched the red stubble on his chin with his left one.
‘Hi there, buddy’ the man said in a low voice, Peterson nodded and took the outstretched appendage. ‘Name’s Flanagan and those guys are Norwood and Connors’ he threw a thumb in the direction of his companions, who touched their caps with a finger to acknowledge the introduction.
Peterson assumed he was to return the favor, but was uncomfortable using their actual names. ‘Hello, call me Baz, that’s Rosey, Asa and the guy behind the car we call Maury’ their nom de plumes were enough he felt. And Flanagan seemed pleased with it.
He pulled out an old chewed cigar and placed it between his teeth and smiled. ‘Baz, huh’ the crow’s feet around his eyes revealed him to be older than he looked, maybe close to forty. ‘I’ve heard of you.’
‘Most people this side of the underworld have’ Peterson smiled back and secretly hoped that he wasn’t revealing his age. ‘You got the stuff?’
Flanagan nodded and gently waved the trio to approach. He backed up with his eyes squarely on Peterson and moved towards the bed of the truck. The men named Norwood and Connors climbed in the back where a cloth tarp was covering most of the content. Flanagan snapped his fingers and Norwood pulled back the cloth to reveal wooden crates. Peterson eyed the boxes and then looked at Flanagan.
‘You wanna check the content?’ he said and produced a crowbar from beneath the tarp. Peterson took it and handed it over to Camp, who jumped up to the crates. With some effort he opened the top of the closest box and it let out a creak that reverberated through the building, very much like a groan. Anderson tossed him an electric torch and he proceeded to dig amongst the straw hiding the contents of the carefully nailed together container. He found what he was looking for, weighed it in his hand, put it up to his eyes and carefully assessed it. Peterson gave a short whistle to catch his attention and when he got it he shrugged and Camp threw the object back into the crate and gave a thumb’s up.
‘Well it seems as if everything is in order’ Peterson said to the Irishmen and this time stuck out his hand.
‘Completely’ Flanagan responded ‘Everything in exact order.’
Peterson called Hammer and the two others over to help unload the crates; they had a truck of their own waiting on the second level that they would load with the stuff. Once the bed of the truck was empty the men congregated around the stack of wooden boxes wiping the sweat from their brows with handkerchiefs and Anderson lit another cigarette. Then, all of a sudden they heard a light thud and noticed in the corner of their eyes how the truck dipped and in unison they turned to it.
At first it was impossible to tell what it exactly was. A shape, what appeared to be a curled up person in a mass of red and blue, was in the center of the bed and as the springs of the truck slowly stilled it rose to a standing position. Anderson froze as the figure, dressed in a tight body suit half red and half blue with a spiked belt around its waist, but it was the face that made his blood run cold. Red eyes, fangs and horns stared at them, but before he could get a closer look the micks opened fire.
The figure somersaulted over them as bullets ripped through the back of the vehicle. Camp and Peterson, who weren’t shooting, quickly turned around both with weapons in hand and held them at the ready. The figure’s eyes intensified with red fire and a roar came at them, momentarily paralyzing them all; Flanagan and Peterson, grizzled vets, where the first to recover, but it was too late. A flash of steel and Flanagan fell backwards screaming as his right hand landed on the ground, still clutching a Smith & Wesson. The demon faced person had slid across the floor and had clipped Peterson’s legs from under him with a swift kick, sending him hard into the floor. They were forced to spin around again as the figure leapt to a crouching position. Two lightening quick movements and Norwood and Connors collapsed on the floor with blood flowing from nasty gashes in the abdomen and face. Anderson could smell the pungent aroma of human waste as guts spilled on concrete alongside teeth and parts of a tongue. Camp let a cry escape his lips and with brown chew flying everywhere he unleashed his automatic rifle in a vicious spray at the enemy. Anderson followed with his revolver, but the figure flipped around avoiding every single bullet. It stepped off one of the pillars, spun in the air and planted a boot on Anderson’s forehead. It sent him flying a short distance in the air and he landed hard on his back, knocking the wind out of him. Camp reloaded his rifle as Peterson began to stir on the ground and Hammer came running from behind the Chrysler, revolver raised and firing as he moved forward. The figure dropped down to one knee and swung his weapon low, slicing Hammer’s lower leg clean off sending the appendage one way and the owner of it another. The smoke from the gunfire enveloped the figure as it rose and turned at the same time and revealed two waved swords in each hand, blood dripping from the point of the one on the right. Peterson threw his revolver to the ground and came at it with a baseball bat, which he must have taken from the truck. He swung at the head, but the figure parried with the left blade and let the right one separate Peterson’s head from the rest of his body. Without hesitation Camp unleashed another barrage of bullets that tore through Peterson’s body as it fell, limply, to the floor, but the figure was already gone. It landed behind the inattentive gunman and let sharpened steel pierce him through the back.
Anderson, still on the floor, but now on his stomach, fired his gun and struck the figure in the arm, no more than grazing it. He continued to pull the trigger, but without results, he was out of bullets. The figure, that face, walked towards him, the eyes glowed at him and it felt as if they were burning two pinholes through his skull. There was a shriek and Anderson was no more.
Author: Richard Thomas
Genre: Neo Noir, Crime
On Milwaukee Street in the seedy underbelly of Chicago we are introduced to our main character. A sad, wreak of a man who remains nameless throughout the book. The victim of a life altering event only hinted at initially, he spends his days drinking and self-medicating, sometimes slaking his lust with an enigma of a woman whom we know little of. At times a manila envelope appears in his apartment, a job for him to do.
These various jobs are brutal, murders he must commit where the victims seem to be criminals of a varying nature; the only common ground appears to be that they are not on the police radar. Unlike Jeff Lindsay´s Dexter Morgan this protagonist does not bother with the moral aspect of what he does, at least not initially. His deeds are dictated by the mysterious Vlad, a man whose reach throughout the criminal world of the Second City seems vast, but whose motives are shrouded in mystery.
This nameless antihero becomes very polarizing as the reader is thrown between sympathy and loathing in regard to his actions. Always on the brink of rage he beats a man who is cruel to a dog or guns down a woman driving under the influence. As a reader one follows his slow descent into debauchery, madness and rage until we are uncertain what is to become of him. Everything takes a turn when it is revealed that our protagonist might not be the only killer that Vlad employs and that the events that caused him to end up in his lowly state may not be a coincidence. The tangled weave that has become reality is about to become unraveled.
Richard Thomas, as he often points out, came into writing late in life and Disintegration is his first full length novel. However he has published a myriad of short stories as well as been in charge of a column on literactor, where he discusses the art of writing extensively. His extensive body of fiction spans all types of genres; everything from horror to crime and all with a darkness and gloom as common elements. For those who have read Thomas’ posts on literactor it is easy to see that he believes in what he says. Several of his tips and tricks he has related to the readers are frequently used, making Disintegration a study in how to captivate the reader as well as how to be original in writing.
The readers are treated to fragments of a bigger picture and are left to do their own interpretation to backgrounds, as well as reasons and driving forces. Every time the readers think they know the deal a new event turns it all upside down.
The main character of Disintegration is a man on the brink, having lost it all he is closer to Frank Castle, The Punisher, without the sense of revenge and with a good deal of both Mike Hammer and Sam Spade thrown in the mix.
Richard Thomas has truly created a story that places itself as the next step in the hard boiled thriller. Borrowing from Noir forerunners like Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler and stepping off contemporaries like Warren Ellis he takes the genre to another level.
Disintegration is a great read for those who want to see an original work in progress, but also for those who want to see that noir is alive and well and that Thomas will make sure it stays that way.