~~~

A heavily barricaded two-story parking garage made up part of the northern wall surrounding New Cleveland. It was centered in between the fight pits, a quarter of a mile to the southeast, and the Harbor Theater a quarter of a mile to the southwest.

Two face-painted individuals slowly crept into position behind an old first-aid station across a narrow street bordering the ground floor of the garage. Deep within the parking garage, three large box trucks were lined up in front of the only serviceable exit out the northern end of the city.

Diane was lying in a patch of tall grass near the rear of the station, scanning with binoculars Taven had supplied. She counted the Lunatic sentries moving about on the second floor of the garage, which also served as a rooftop. Surprisingly, she only spotted two armed men. Tony had already located another five on the first floor near the trucks, presumably getting them ready for departure close to dawn. Aside from that, the old parking garage lay still.

Taven had tipped them off about the first-aid station. He’d told them there was an abandoned lower level of the parking garage that could be accessed through the basement of the station, via a maintenance tunnel connecting them. The maintenance tunnel was also abandoned—the access door from the station, buried behind old shelves in a small storage room no one had used in a very long time. Taven assured them that no one would be monitoring the access tunnel or the lower level of the garage, since it had long ago been flooded and had partially collapsed. When asked how he knew about the tunnel, Taven had simply shrugged his shoulders, and said, “I know ways to get around New Cleveland that no one’s ever heard of.”

After assessing numbers, Tony and Diane entered the first-aid station through a storm door at the rear of the structure, buried in weeds. Once in the damp, dark and dusty basement, they turned on flashlights, also provided by Taven, and located the storeroom. It took them twenty minutes to move junk and supplies stored in front of the back shelf until they could see the old door. They cleared the shelf and carefully pulled it away from the wall.

The unremarkable access door opened on rusted hinges, letting in stale, putrid air. There was a single flight of steps that led down into the access tunnel. The tunnel was flooded, but only enough to reach the middle of their boots. The tunnel led them directly under the street above, between the garage and the first-aid station. On the other end of the tunnel, they pushed open another old door that led into the chilly lower lever of the garage. They had to step down another five steps into nasty stagnant water that came up to their knees.

Following Taven’s instructions, they found an abandoned stairwell that went up to the first floor, partially hidden behind a minor collapse of concrete rubble lying on top of an old rusted Volkswagon near the left wall of the garage. From here, they could spy on the truck convoy from the shadows, using thick concrete pylons to move into position for their ambush.

Diane stared out from behind the crushed vehicle. Aside from the five Lunatics near the trucks, the rest of the garage sat eerily quiet. She pulled back and crouched down next to Tony. “I expected a lot more security here,” she said, keeping her voice low. “Are we missing something, or are they just that overconfident, or complacent?”

Tony shrugged his shoulders. “It’s Lunatic business. I’m sure no one in their right mind comes anywhere close to this place.”

“And here we are,” Diane added with a smile.

Tony frowned. “Yeah… then there’s us. Either we caught a break or there’s more patrols lurking about that we haven’t seen yet.”

“I wish we could see inside those trucks. There might be more Lunatics in there.”

“I doubt it,” Tony said. “Taven gave me the impression that these shipments were large. They would have to have those trucks full to the max to satisfy the cravings of those monsters out at the lake.”

Diane shook her head. “How can anyone just treat human beings with such low regard?”

“You’ve spent time in this horrible place. After everything you’ve seen, does reducing people to food come as any surprise?”

Diane glared toward the ground. “Candyman is pure fucking evil,” she said. “This town represents the worst of us… and yet it thrives. How is that possible?”

“He called it, ‘Sodom’,” Tony said.

“What was that?”

“Taven… that’s what he called this place when he told me about the shipments. As shady as that man is, I suspect that he feels the same as we do about this horrible town.”

“And is that why you trust him?”

Tony laughed weakly. “Trust is a strong word. As I said before, we have mutual interests that end the moment we leave with these trucks. Whatever that snake has planned, I suspect that it involves the end of New Cleveland… for whatever that’s worth.”

“He told you that?”

“Not directly. But I believe everything hinges on Mosquito Creek receiving this shipment on time. When it doesn’t happen, Candyman’s going to be scrambling to keep his ‘dark deal’ intact. All I know is that Taven wants us to succeed for entirely different reasons. That’s the part I trust.”

Diane considered the weight of Tony’s words. “Well, I don’t like any of this. It all feels wrong.”

“You think this is a trap?”

“No, I don’t mean that,” she said. “It just feels… wrong. I think that whatever happens after today, you and I are going to have to live with it for the rest of our lives.”

Tony nodded. “I can… and I will,” he said. “Fuck the rest.”

Diane was taken back by Tony’s cold tone. She shifted gears. “So… Nine blows the storage building, we slip on out of the shadows during the confusion, and then hope we get close enough in these disguises to take these clowns out?”

“That’s the idea. The explosion should shake the rest of the patrols out of hiding and steal their focus. Maybe we’ll even lose a couple around the trucks.”

Diane nodded. “If even one of them starts firing on us… gave over.”

“Yeah, that will bring the rest of them running our way. We’re going to need to get as close as we can before things get… violent.”

Diane sighed heavily. “I’ve got one shot with the crossbow.”

“Can you make it count?”

“Of course.”

“Then that will leave four. We’ll have to move on them quickly. No hesitation.”

She nodded. “Got it. I don’t like it… but I’ve got it.” The hunter sat on her knees and removed the crossbow slung around her back. She braced it between her legs and used her one hand to pull back on the loading mechanism. She inserted the arrow. Diane practiced raising the small crossbow with her left arm and resting it over her right shoulder for support. She knew the shot would be awkward at that behind-the-back angle, and she’d need to get in close before she could use it, but Diane felt confident she could make the shot.

“You good?”

“Yes. I can make it work.” She lowered the crossbow. “Now, the hard part.”

Tony nodded. “Yeah… the waiting.”

Diane stared at the big man, was about to speak, then hesitated.

“What is it?” he said.

“I feel like we should’ve waited a bit longer.”

Tony sighed. “We waited as long as long as we could. We needed to get into position before the sun started to rise.”

“I know,” she said. “You’re right. It’s just… Wendy’s late as hell. Something might have happened to her. And my friend, Nadia… I thought for sure she would have arrived before we left.”

“We’ll just have to hope that Nine catches up with them on his way back. They know where to meet us. Either they’re there… or they’re not.”

“And if something bad happened to them?” she pushed.

Tony stared at the hunter. “We can only do our part right now, Diane. I hope they make it… I really do. But one way or the other we’re getting the hell out of here.”

She nodded and turned away. “You’ve changed.”

“How’s that?”

“There was a time you’d never sacrifice anyone… or leave someone behind.”

Tony’s shoulders sank. “I’m doing the best I can, Diane. I don’t like any of this. But I’m not going to let the people in those trucks be delivered to those monsters at the lake. They deserve better than that.”

“So do Wendy, Nadia and Hash.”

Tony closed his eyes and nodded. “Yeah… of course they do.” He raised his crowbar and finished, “It’s almost time. We should get into position.”

The hunter wanted to say more, but let it go. She nodded and raised the crossbow.

~~~

“What the hell was that?” Nine said to Taven, returning to the end of the alley with Joe right on his heels. He was quickly unrolling the detonator wire into the alley.

“Is it done?” Taven asked.

“Yeah,” Nine said. “It’s in place. We heard some crazy shit up there.”

Taven smiled. “What did you hear?”

“I think you know already… and don’t tell me that it’s fucking ghosts.”

Taven shrugged his shoulders. “Perhaps you heard the wind, or something foul riding upon it.”

“What’s that even mean?” Joe said to Nine. She turned to the strange man. “There was a gap in the wall, a small one, like something an animal would use. We could hear moans coming from inside. Lots of them.”

“Sounds like you have a very active imagination, child,” Taven said. “I can’t say that I blame you. That place plays upon the senses. Sometimes, people hear things… things that shouldn’t be, but are.”

Nine laughed. “Damn, you are Yoda. Why don’t you just tell us what’s going on up there?”

“I did try to warn you about what you might hear, did I not? No matter. May I have the detonator… please,” Taven said.

Nine reached into his pack, pulled out the small plunger, then stopped.

Taven reached out his hand and frowned. “I don’t know how to satisfy your questions about that theater. I’m trying to help you and your friends, but only if you let me. What I do know is that timing is everything… and we are about out of time.”

Nine shook his head and handed over the detonator.

Taven took it and smiled. “Thank you.”

“Let’s just get this over with,” he said, unrolling what was left of the wire down into the alley. “I can live without knowing about every creepy thing that happens in this town.”

“Ditto,” Joe said. “But if this doesn’t work the first time… I’m not going back up there.”

“You may both leave now,” Taven said.

Nine and Joe stopped and looked at Taven.

He continued to smile and speak in an unnervingly calm voice. “I can finish this from here. Go on. Join your friends.”

“But… that wasn’t the plan,” Nine said. “We’re to blow that building and then head back together.”

“Change of plans,” Taven said. “It’s not the right ‘when’ to detonate the theater yet. But it is the right ‘when’ for both of you to go.”

“We’ll never get back in time!” Joe said. “You’re the only one who knows that crazy route we took to get here!”

“And what the hell do you mean, ‘it’s not the right ‘when’?” Nine added, stepping toward Taven. “Our friends are waiting on that diversion. They should already be in place. Now is the fucking time!”

“No,” Taven said, shaking his head. “It is not the right ‘when’. I have already seen it… and will wait here for it. Please… go.”

“You’re out of your fucking mind,” Nine said, stepping closer. “Give me the damn detonator!”

Taven frowned and took a step back. “Not too close,” he warned. “Never too close or I might smell you and be tempted. You do not want to tempt Taven.”

Joe tugged on Nine’s arm. “Get away from him,” she said. “He’s not right.”

Nine took a step back. “Anyone who speaks to himself in the first person is clearly not dealing with a full deck. What the hell’s the matter with you?”

“Tick, tock! Tick, tock!” Taven snapped. “You are wasting time with words! Time you do not have! This is not your ‘when’—not your WHEN!”

“What the fuck?” Nine whispered stepping back.

“Let’s just go!” Joe urged, still tugging on Nine’s arm.

“Listen to the girl,” Taven urged, attempting to calm down. “Listen to the sweet girl. She’s smells so sweet… so very… very sweet!” The strange man licked his lower lip, revealing his sharp upper teeth. Taven took a step toward them.

“Fuck! What the hell are you?” Nine said.

Joe gasped and hid herself behind Nine. “Let’s go… please! There’s something very wrong with him!”

Taven laughed. He reached up to his dark sunglasses and removed him, revealing his mercury colored eyes.

“Shit!” Nine said, slowly backing away. “Joe! Move back! Taven’s infected!” He nearly fell back over the girl.

Taven took another step toward them, licking his lips. “Go… now,” he said. “I’ve been… I’ve been very, very patient… but there’s no more time… no more time for patient. I will detonate the explosives… you will see. All of you will see.”

“Anything you say, crazy fucker,” Nine said, turning Joe around. “We’re just going to be on our way, okay?”

“TICK! TOCK! TICK! TOCK!” Taven shouted at them.

“Run, Joe!” Nine said, pushing the girl the other direction.

Joe took off down the alley and Nine followed.

Taven stood there… smiling. He watched them leave with a tinge of disappointment. It had been a good long while since he’d catered to the hunger that burned within. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, letting the urge pass.

Nine caught up with the girl. “Slow down!” he said. “He’s not chasing us!”

“I don’t care!” she shouted over her shoulder. “Did you see the way he looked at me? He wanted to eat me!”

Nine grabbed the girl’s shoulders and spun her around. “It’s okay,” he said. “We’re going to be alright.”

Joe wrapped her arms around his waist. “I’m not going back there,” she said through tears.

“No shit,” Nine said. “But… hey… look at me now.”

She looked up at him as he knelt in front of her.

“This is super important,” he said. “Can you get us back?”

Joe looked around. “I’ve never been through here. It’s confusing in the dark. But… I can try.”

“Good enough. Let’s move. Our friends need us.”

“Will he blow it up?” she said.

Nine frowned. “I don’t know, Joe. But whatever that monster’s about to do… it can’t be good for anybody, especially our friends.”

Joe nodded, wiping tears on the sleeve of her coat. She put on her bravest face and said, “I’ll… I’ll get us back.”

Nine smiled at her and ruffled the top of her blue hair. “I know you will. Let’s move.”

Together they disappeared into the next alley while the night swallowed up each street behind them.

~~~

“Stop fucking lying!” Wendy shouted. “You murdered my friend… just admit it!”

Mr. Silver was a sweaty and bloody mess. His mouth bled from biting his tongue. He was shaking and sobbing so hard that snot dripped from his nose. When he remembered to inhale, the disgusting mess-of-a-man made an unnerving braying sound, like a donkey. “I didn’t… I didn’t touch your friend! Honest! I didn’t!” he whined between bouts of tears. The chains around his wrists and ankles were pulling so hard against his flesh that dark purple bruises, like rings, appeared.

“LIAR!!!” Wendy screamed and slapped him hard across the cheek. She was breathing heavy. Her clothes were disheveled. Her hair was drenched in sweat. The murder room felt like an oven. Her right hand was throbbing from hitting the vile man multiple times. The first couple of times had been difficult, but it got easier as Mr. Silver went from verbally defiant to a blubbering idiot once Sheila started turning the handle on the ratchet, which in turn caused various pulleys to grind and pull at the chains, stretching the man’s joints and causing tremendous pain.

“You’re gonna die, fucker,” Sheila added with a wicked smile. She turned the handle on the machine again.

Mr. Silver screamed in agony, causing Wendy to back up in shock. She turned to the stripper. “What are you doing?”

Sheila gave her a confused and irritated look. “I’m making this monster squirm, that’s what I’m doing.”

“Not until I say!” she reminded her. Wendy was terrified by the Rack. It did things to Silver’s flesh that registered immediately in the man’s horrified eyes. She had told Herbie and Sheila that they would not use it unless they had to… especially after how much the man screamed initially, nearly passing out from the pain.

Herbie, who sat toward the back wall with a rag held over his mouth, tried to keep from getting sick every time the man bled or screamed. Just the sound of the clicking, grinding machine made him want to vomit. He didn’t care what the girls did to get the weasel to talk, but he hadn’t realized how traumatizing it was to watch another human being get tortured. After almost passing out himself, the girls insisted that Herbie stay back and try not to have a heart attack.

He gladly complied.

Wendy turned back to Silver, who was sobbing again.

“Please!” he begged. “No more! No more!”

“You want this to stop? Well… so do I, asshole. I’m not enjoying seeing you like this,” Wendy said. “Just being in this room is making my stomach turn. I swear I can still smell your fear above the stench of your piss mixed with vomit. Just fucking tell me what I need to know… and this will end!”

Mr. Silver gave her a pleading look, then closed his eyes.

He won’t talk, she thought. He knows. He knows the moment he confesses… we’ll kill him.

Wendy shook at the finality in that thought.

“Fucking dickhead!” Sheila spat in his face. “We don’t want to be here all fucking night! Tell her! Tell her… or so help me… I’ll stay long after she’s done with you and cut you to pieces… slowly! I’ll start with removing your balls first then work up to your eyes!”

Wendy glared at her. Sheila wore a satisfied expression with a sickening smile. She kept her hand on the lever of the machine, hoping to have another chance to make Silver scream. She’s enjoying this! Wendy thought.

Sheila caught her judgmental stare. “Don’t you dare!” she snapped at her. “Don’t you look at me like that! You’re no different than me. Just look at your hands!”

Wendy raised her shaking hands. They were skinned and bloody around the knuckles. She’d even broken a nail. What the fuck is wrong with me?

“You’re enjoying this, too,” Sheila said, as if reading her mind. “You won’t admit it. But I can tell. It’s in your eyes, bitch. It’s a real fucking rush once you get past all that morality crap and let your anger take over. And I’m seeing your anger coming out just fine. So, stop gawking at me and get to it… or I will!”

Wendy closed her eyes and tried to calm down. Sheila was right. The longer they stayed in this room and let the violence have free reign on Silver’s flesh… the easier it became. And she was… angry… so very, very angry.

“Please,” Silver whimpered. “No more. Make it stop. I don’t know what happened to your friend. I… I made it all up. I made it all up just to… just to upset you.”

Wendy opened her eyes.

“Let… let me go… and I can make this right,” he said. “I’ll help you find your friend! I’ll go with you to every murder shop… whatever it takes… until we find him.”

Wendy squinted her eyes. “If you made it all up,” she said. “Then why do you act like Mark’s still here? Why would you think that… unless you know already?” she said.

Silver opened his mouth to speak, then shook his head instead. “I don’t… I don’t know what I’m saying,” he sobbed. “I’m… I’m fucked up! I didn’t mean that… I didn’t say that Mark was here… just that-”

“I don’t believe you,” Wendy hissed.

“I didn’t do anything! I didn’t kill your friend!”

Wendy leaned in and whispered with a smile, “We’ll see, asshole.” She turned toward Sheila and nodded.

“No!” Silver protested. “No, wait!”

“Fuck, not again,” Herbie whined from the back of the room. “Just tell them the truth, already!” he shouted over to the weasel.

Sheila winked at Wendy, then cranked on the handle of the machine.

Mr. Silver screamed.

~~~

Next Episode 52-3

Previous Episode 52-1

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 52-2: Sodom” Copyright © 2019 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Six: Mother. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Comments
  1. alikolino says:

    Did you see the way her looked at me?

    * he looked

    Like

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