Perched on the thin edge of the staircase, Jay slid open the filthy window to get a better look inside. It took a long minute for his eyes to adjust to the dark. The apartment was small, one end turning around a corner he couldn’t see into. But what he could see did little to put him at ease.

The wall opposite him was lined with crates, ammunition spilling out of them. Thousands of bullets, more than any one person should ever need. Enough for an army.

Or just enough for a vigilante who kept stealing answers that were rightfully his.

A car horn blared down below, and Jay nearly fell from the railing. From this height, if he lost his footing, he was sure to paint the street with his skull. So with a glance back to be sure he hadn’t been seen, the lithe teen quietly slipped inside.

Jay didn’t know what he’d expected. For the man who’d been leaving a dense trail of corpses in his wake, it was surprisingly clean. Every surface empty, no dishes in the sink, no clutter at all to suggest the space was actually lived in. If he hadn’t gotten this lead, he would have thought this was just a safe house and a missed shot.

But then he heard the scream, the low voice, and a heavy thud. And he knew he had the right place.

Sneaking around the corner, he eyed the one doorway he couldn’t see past. The hall led to that one door, and Jay knew the truth lay just beyond it. One step after another he approached, eyes glued to the faded green wood. He had to know. No matter how this ended.

But too late, Jay realized his mistake. His foot caught on a tripwire, and the soft jingling of bells sounded throughout the apartment, deceivingly soft. With a small gasp, he tried to packpedal, but stumbled over his own feet and sprawled out on the dusty floor.

And then that green door slammed open, and Jay knew his luck had run out.


“You’re gonna talk, or you’re gonna start losing fingers. Your call.”

Despite his trembling form, the burly redhead stayed silent. From how securely he was tied to the chair, there wasn’t much else he could do. Especially with how much of his own blood he was already covered with.

Francis took a slow step forward. And then another. The man in the chair looked about ready to piss himself. Gaze still held nonchalantly on the blade, Francis spoke as if discussing little more than the weather. “Not gonna be a second chance, friend. Choose right.”

Petrified expression twisting into something resembling anger, the redhead spat.

Francis dragged the whetstone along the blade of his knife, watching. “Ok, he nodded. “Alright.” He stepped forward, and slammed the blade into the other man’s hand, neatly tucked between two rows of bone.

The redhead screamed.

“Ah, ah, ah.” Francis shoved a bloody hand against the other’s mouth, and the screaming tapered off to whimpers and sobs. “You make more noise, somebody’s gonna think to call the cops. And if that happens? Well, they’re not gonna find you, so much as they’re going to find a pile of meat. We clear?”

The redhead nodded fiercely, tears dragging the blood down into his graying beard. Francis would have felt sympathy, had he not seen the guy mercilessly gut a dark-haired teenager an hour earlier. Francis’s blood still boiled, and only one thing was going to make that right. He flipped the knife, lifted his arm, and—

And then the bells in the kitchen rang out.

Francis frowned. He sheathed the blade, and instead flashed a pistol in clear view, gaze on the door. “You make a goddamn sound, you’re meat. Know that.”

He turned towards the door. Handle held tight in his white-knuckled grip, he turned the knob slowly before sending the door slamming open. He spotted a figure below, and grabbed him by the scruff and lifted, knocking him into the wall behind.

Calmly, Francis pressed the muzzle of the pistol against the guy’s temple. “You move, you’re dead. You scream, you’re dead. Take the fuckin’ mask off. Now.”

A trembling arm lifted up the mask and tossed it to the floor. Then didn’t move.

Francis stares at the pale-faced, wide-eyed expression before him, not understanding what he was seeing. Slowly, his brain kicked back into gear enough for him to speak.


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