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John pulled his black Cadillac Escalade into the Blockbuster parking lot. All three men exited the vehicle, throwing their doors shut. They navigated through the sea of cars without breaking stride. Their footsteps reverberated off of the faded black pavement as they approached the store.
The driver opened the door, holding it for Steve, with Michael bringing up the rear. Similar expressions of ruthless resolve were displayed on their faces. The door dinged as it opened.
As the criminals stepped into the store, one of the three clerks behind the front desk made eye contact with each of them, smiling. He was in mid-conversation with a customer, and so were the other cashiers.
John walked behind the counter and made an announcement. “Who’s in charge here?” He planted his feet, crossing his arms in front of him while adopting a commanding tone.
A middle-aged woman turned from her customer to address him. “I am sir,” she answered with polite professionalism. “If you just wait a minute, I’ll be right with you.”
John casually closed the distance between them, invading her personal space. His voice became sinister. “You’ll help me now. Just tell me if David Wazowski is working today.” His eyes conveyed the danger within, daring her to defy him. They bore into her, breaking the barrier she had erected through years of dealing with difficult people.
“He’s in the back, on his break,” the woman answered obediently, processing his body language. She pointed to a door. Her eyes had gone wide with terror. The words that she uttered were tiny and shrill, and she recoiled as she spoke.
The predator gave his final orders, placing his hands on her shoulders, and staring intently into her face. “Get everyone out of here right now, including you. Lock the doors on your way out.”
He addressed everyone in the store other than his partners, his voice becoming a booming bass. “And if anyone is fucking stupid enough to call the police, we’re coming after all of you, all of your families, and everyone you know! The aggression in his tone peaked. “I don’t care if only one of you is a filthy fucking rat! If we see a single cop, everyone dies! Now get the fuck out of here!”
John headed in the direction that the frightened woman had pointed as people vacated the premises. Steve and Michael fell in step behind him, entering the break room.
The lead killer aggressively opened the black door. The lone occupant of the room stood up from a table in surprise, without pushing back his chair. Alarmed by the appearance of the mysterious group, his motion made his thighs bang into the bottom of the table. It nearly overturned, and two of its legs came crashing back to the ground with a loud thud. The chair skittered across the floor after his calves smashed into its legs, emitting an invasive scraping sound. David Wazowski regained his balance as he stumbled out of the ruckus.
John questioned him with menacing authority, after he had righted himself. “David Wazowski?” He came so close to him that the aroma of his cheap cologne became pungent.
“Who wants to know?” the surprised cashier replied, his composure quickly fading.
David had sandy, medium-length blonde hair. It was dishevelled and looked unwashed. He smelled like he was in dire need of a shower. He was short and extremely skinny. His baggy, bright orange work shirt hung off of him like a tent. The old black slacks that he wore were way too big for him. His pale skin seemed to be getting whiter by the minute, and his grey pupils were dilated in fear. He shrunk back as the malicious criminal loomed over him.
Steve stepped in front of John and punched David in the stomach with precision and power.
“We’re asking the questions here motherfucker!” Speak when spoken to! And answer our fucking questions when we ask!”
He was like an angry pit-bull on the attack. Veins were popping out of his forehead, neck, and arms, and his muscles bulged as he grabbed his victim. Seething rage shone through his penetrating eyes. Every fibre of his being was infected with barely contained violent aggression. He was on the verge of foaming at the mouth and launching into a full-scale attack, tearing his unsuspecting prey to shreds.
“All right, all right!” David exclaimed, doubled over and wheezing. He clutched his abdomen in pain. “Yes, I’m David Wazowski.”
His attacker grabbed him by his ears and pulled his head up to look into his eyes. “Good. You know how to listen.” Steve’s hostility remained, but he was no longer yelling.
“You hear about a girl getting kidnapped recently?” he asked, still holding the other man’s head.
“No more than usual,” David replied promptly, wincing at the pain in his ears. “I heard about a couple abductions like that this week. Which one?”
Steve yanked his victim’s hair. “The one from yesterday. A little girl was taken from outside an ice cream store.”
A quizzical expression formed on David’s face. “Yeah, I heard about that one.”
The criminal let go of his ears, and shot a hand to his throat. His fingers closed tightly around the horrified man’s neck. “What did you hear!?” he demanded, his eyes burning with white-hot fury. Spit flew haphazardly from his mouth as he sputtered.
His victim gasped and choked, feeling his attacker’s hand cutting off his air supply. “I just heard about it, man. Somebody told me that some little girl got kidnapped.
“Where is she?!” the dangerous man pressed. He squeezed harder.
David felt like he was about to pass out. His vision blurred, and he had almost run out of oxygen. “I don’t know! I don’t know. Please. I don’t know.” His raspy voice faded and became more desperate with each syllable. Water leaked from the corners of his eyes, his face turning beet red. Sweat glistened on his forehead, mixing with his tears and dripping off of him in a wet, viscous mess.
Michael moved next to the victim. He addressed his partner. “Let me do this, Steve,” he demanded with sadistic determination.
Steve looked at him, and let his hand drop from David’s neck as he noticed the coldblooded expression. “All right. Go ahead. Make him talk.”
“Take a seat. You look like you need it,” Michael suggested, pointing to the chair in which the man had been sitting. His ruthless expression remained.
David was confused, but he reluctantly did so. “What now?” he asked hesitantly as he sat, grateful and relieved, but frightened of what might happen.
“I’m glad you asked,” Michael answered. He pulled a small pair of black bolt cutters with red handles from a deep pants pocket. Then he put the man’s right index finger in between the two blades. He did this slowly and methodically, to cause the greatest amount of fear. His icy gaze turned to his prey, his tone measured.
“I’m going to start squeezing these two handles together, and if you don’t tell me where my daughter is as quickly as possible, you’ll lose this finger. If you still don’t tell us after that, I’ll keep going. You’ll run out of fingers soon enough.”
David was shell-shocked into submission. He made no attempt to remove his finger from the bolt cutters, terror paralyzing him.
“Wanna give me a hand, guys?” Michael asked his partners, looking up at each of them.
Coming out of mild shock, knowing what little they knew about their partner, they snapped into action. John pulled out his handgun, pressing the cold metal against the side of David’s head. Steve held his trapped arm in place.
“Okay David,” warned the man holding the bolt cutters. “I’m starting now. You better talk, motherfucker.” He sounded like a venomous snake; quiet, and poised to strike with deadly force.
“Please!” the tortured man desperately begged, with potent dread. “I don’t know where your daughter is! I have no idea!” He gazed into Michael’s eyes, pleading for pity. “Don’t do this.”
The criminal had no compassion for this man. His thoughts were laser-focused on doing whatever it took to save his daughter, regardless of the cost. He squeezed the bolt cutter handles together, focusing his brutal gaze on his victim’s finger. It turned white as the blades slowly pressed into it.
David flinched and spasmed, struggling to free himself from the agony. Fear poisoned every cell in his body. “Nooooo! Pleeeeaaaase!”
He had never been more panicked in his entire life. Tears streamed down his face, and he was saturated with sweat. He whimpered, flailing around as he helplessly begged for mercy. His body and mind were weak and broken. Fear and melancholy pulsated through his face.
John shoved his black Berretta 9mm more forcefully against David’s head. “You better shut the fuck up, idiot!” He pistol-whipped him on his cheek for emphasis.
Steve struggled to hold the man’s arm in place. The resistance ended as soon as he was struck. “Thank you,” he said to his partner with relief, looking up at him. “This motherfucker is a handful.”
David moved as little as he could. He only flinched and shuddered slightly while the tool closed on his finger. A prominent welt stretched across his cheek. The bruise nearly covered half of his face and was already swelling. A cut had formed over-top of the welt, where the gun had hit. Blood oozed and dripped from it, covering almost half of his face with streaks of crimson. He felt dazed, and looked away from his finger as the man kneeling in front of him sheared it off.
Michael exerted more force into the bolt cutters, knowing that once he got through the flesh, the bone would be more difficult to sever. He watched the finger turn whiter and whiter as he put more pressure into it. Maintaining precision, he did this as slowly as possible. Inflicting maximum pain was his goal, since this parasite could have had something to do with his daughter’s disappearance.
David’s finger bled as the blades cut into it. He took massive, slow breaths to avoid hyperventilating, screaming in agony, or passing out. But the tool pressed deeper into his flesh, splitting open layers of skin and reaching muscle and fat tissue. He flinched and snivelled, emitting an involuntarily scream.
After the first bellow, John tapped the scar on his face with his gun. “Quiet down, bitch,” he warned, brutality boiling beneath the surface.
David’s cheek stung as John touched it, so he stifled further outbursts. This was daunting. The bolt cutters continued separating his finger from his hand. They had gotten half way through the tissue covering his bone.
Michael got amped-up, exerting himself more as he got farther into his prey’s finger. A large amount of blood started spurting as tendons, nerves, muscle and fat were ripped apart. The volume of thick red liquid increased as the finger got closer to mutilation.
Tremors shot through David’s entire body, which he reduced along with his whimpers, as much as he could. The pure, unadulterated pain was getting unbearable. He thought that he might black out.
His agony was a volcano’s lava, slowly rising, increasing in furious heat and intensity. The devastating river within would stubbornly boil and froth out of the top. It would end in a crescendo of violent eruption, spilling out and exploding into the world, annihilating anything in its path.
David’s blood began coagulating, making it burst forth in a thick sheen of stuttering crimson globules. Michael had nearly reached the bone. He injected maximum strength into the bolt cutters, starting to sever the cartilage. His victim silently sobbed, sweating profusely, his body racked with small, involuntary convulsions. His face was beet red, causing the blood, sweat, and tears on his face to glisten in acute contrast.
The criminal thrust the razor-sharp blades of his tool into the bone of the man’s finger, making silent screams and gasps shoot out of him. His agony was so overwhelming that he couldn’t form words. The edges cutting into the bone caused the sensation to radiate through his entire hand, shooting up his arm and into the rest of his body.
David looked away from his maimed finger, fighting off a gag reflex. Fleeting glances at it made bile build up in the back of his throat, threatening to burst in a fountain of fetid vomit. Michael stared at the appendage with maniacal conviction as he pressed the bolt cutters into the rigid cartilage. He had to strain to get the blades through it. This concluded with one final squeeze of his torturous tool, snapping off the remaining meagre portion of bone. A bloody stub was where the finger had comfortably sat mere minutes before. Gooey red liquid gushed from the surrounding tissue, getting all over David’s hand, arm, clothes, and the floor. The splotches produced an unmistakable odour. Nothing smells quite like fresh blood.
The devastated victim gazed in shock and horror at his mutilated hand. He was catatonic, and at a loss for words.
“Do you still not know where the girl is?” Steve questioned menacingly, letting go of David’s arm. It dropped lifelessly to his lap. He was slumped in crippling agony and disbelief. The assassin shot his arm to his prey’s throat, squeezing fingers into flesh and choking him. He dragged his face up to meet his own.
“You realize that we’re gonna cut off another one now, right?” He asked rhetorically. His voice sounded like a mother scolding her child about not getting his homework done, and sending him to bed without dessert.
Steve looked searchingly into David’s eyes. An expression of cloudy detection stared back at him. It barely registered through the stupor, like a faint yellow glow seen through all-encompassing darkness.
Michael grabbed the finger next to the stump, clutching it as he brought the bolt cutters up for a parasitic union. “You sure you wanna do this again?” He asked condescendingly, placing the finger in between the blades. “It’ll be a lot easier on everyone if you just tell us what we wanna know.”
David stayed withdrawn into himself. His torturer shook his head with regret, and started closing the edges of the tool on his finger. “Such a waste.”
“Wait!” the victim pleaded. The bolt cutters had barely broken the skin, snapping him into sharp awareness. “I’ll tell you what you wanna know,” he conceded.
Michael halted the tool. Keeping the gun pressed against his prey’s temple, John swivelled to stand in front of him. “So, talk,” he commanded, aggressively shoving the barrel of his Berretta into the man’s forehead.
David recoiled, slipping back into paralyzing fear. He curled up as much as he could while sitting in a chair, looking like a frightened animal retreating in on itself. His words trembled as he spoke.
“Rosario Kelly had the girl kidnapped.” He rotated his eye-line from John to the man in front of him.
Michael released his prisoner’s finger, allowing his hand to drop. The bolt cutters hung leisurely at his side. Rosario Kelly was the infamous leader of a rival gang. He was renowned for his unflinching brutality, and for ignoring the unspoken rules of other criminal organizations. Most had a moral code, but Rosario had no qualms with killing women and children, and attacking people’s families at their homes. He was ruthless. There was no line that he wouldn’t cross. The man with a mutilated finger confirmed Dr. Mctiege and Michael’s suspicions.
David flinched when his hand was freed, then kept talking.
“He said we should take her to an old abandoned warehouse that he owns.”
Michael’s focus morphed into rising anger. His eyes betrayed his feelings, his entire body getting visibly more tense by the second. Fists clenched, muscles constricted, and blood rushed into his veins.
“It’s off I-93. I can give you directions,” continued the crippled man fearfully.
The rising infuriation of his attacker reached a peak. He exploded, lunging at David and putting his full weight into a punch. His fist slammed into his cheek, launching him off of the chair.
“You motherfucker!” Michael roared, momentum making him stumble a few steps past the wobbling chair. He righted himself, then knelt down and straddled his prey.
Almost the entire left side of David’s face was stained with blood. The punch had reopened the cut from John’s gun. He gingerly cradled his cheek, putting pressure on it to stem the flow of crimson leaking from the wound. The sticky mess seeped through his fingers as the criminal overwhelmed him. He grabbed his shirt collar, pulling his face up to his own.
“You took my daughter!” Michael screamed at the terrorized man. He shook him with unparalleled bellicosity, his face encompassing his victim’s entire surroundings. Saliva capriciously flew out of his mouth. A fire blazed in his eyes, which were so engulfed with fury that it seemed like he was possessed by a tumultuously sadistic demon.
He dropped David’s head to the floor with a resounding thud. Before the man could recover from the haze, his attacker threw his fist into his face again. “And you fucking lied about it!”
His prey’s hands dropped from his face. His finger and cheek were in such unbearable agony that he hung onto consciousness by a thread. It felt like someone was shoving a rusted, fire-broiled blade into his skin. It almost tore his face apart as it twisted, ripping it into a gory mutilation. The jagged weapon stung and burned, slipping back out of him like a cold knife sliding through softened butter.
Michael raised his arm to inflict another blow on David. As his fist descended, John and Steve rushed to restrain him. Each of them grabbed an arm. They pulled their partner away, dragging him to the far corner in protest.
“Tell us where the warehouse is motherfucker!” he demanded as he struggled to break free of Steve and John. He violently writhed and juddered, trying to get loose for long enough to leap toward his victim and punish him. This was futile since the strength of the two criminals was too great to surpass.
“Okay!” David cried pathetically, his body and resilience shattered. He clutched his wounded face with both hands, but kept getting blood from his missing finger all over it. So he repositioned his uninjured arm to cover the cut while wrapping his gleaming red stump in his shirt.
“You have to let them answer your questions before you just beat these assholes into submission,” Steve reminded Michael, who gradually struggled less.
John interjected with a comforting yet authoritarian tone. “Yeah. Otherwise we might as well just have killed him right off the bat. And what good would that have done us? We still need some information from this prick.”
“Yeah, maybe you can kill him after we find out what we need to know,” added Steve. Michael’s breathing slowed down and became more controlled.
“No,” John said decisively. “A bunch of people saw us. If we kill him, they’ll know it was us.”
Steve scoffed in derision. “They ain’t sayin’ shit. Who gives a fuck about them?” He puffed out his chest. “They know we’ll kill them and everyone they know if they talk.”
“You should give a fuck about them,” Michael interposed, snapping out of his infuriated stupor. “That was just a bluff, retard,” he said with clarity, nodding at John, who did the same to Steve. He calmly brushed away their restraining arms.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” the criminal responded with rising agitation.
His partner turned to address him condescendingly. “John only said that to get everyone out of here, and make sure no one calls the cops while we’re in here torturing a guy.”
“We could find out where the employees live, and kill them, but we might not be able to find all the customers. Plus, if someone dies after ratting us out, obviously that’ll raise a lot of suspicions, which we definitely don’t need. We don’t need to pile trouble from the cops on top of us already raising tensions with the gangs.”
“Exactly,” John agreed, planting his feet and crossing his arms. “So let’s find out where the warehouse is, then get the fuck out of here,” he ordered.
“All right,” Steve reluctantly conceded, moving to David. He gripped his neck and yanked him off of the floor.
“Where’s the fucking warehouse!?” He screamed in his face. Both of his hands were wrapped around his throat, squeezing with tremendous power.
David wailed in agony and despair. His dishevelled hair stuck up at muddled angles, and it was drenched in glistening sweat. The perspiration dripped from his messy mane, splotches covering his face. Tears from uncontrollable sobbing meshed with the sweat in a gooey mess. His complexion turned a darker shade of red. He choked and sputtered, attempting to speak, but only producing incoherent grunts. His vision blurred at the edges, imperfections spreading toward the centre of his gaze. The hazier his eyesight got, the closer he felt to slipping out of consciousness.
The slow fade to black was like a cancer. It originated in a specific area, then surreptitiously infected the rest of the cells, leading to an excruciating ride to unending darkness.
Steve loosened his grip to allow David enough air to talk.
He gasped in exhilaration as oxygen leaked into his lungs, then answered as soon as he had his voice. “It’s on Drire Road, off Highway I-19,” he offered hoarsely. “Go about 5 miles down that road, then it’s on the right. You can’t miss it.”