by Andrew Capone

Even the strong are in need of the strength of others.

D I S C U S S I O N  F O R U M  |  R E T U R N  T O  S T  O N L I N E




Dowton Street. March 3rd, 23:16

A stagnant haze hung in the air after the hustle of the day. The electric lights flickered and buzzed in the otherwise silent streets and shadows played hide and seek in the deserted alleyways. Upturned rubbish bins paraded the grime covered walls and rats scavenged through the rotting waste.

Amidst of the silence came the heavy panting of another victim of local gang crime. Arching his back, he held onto the greasy brickwork and gasped before continuing on his escape from his predators. As he ran, he made a silent prayer to whichever God society hadn't killed yet, to spare him the fate of being another headline in the next day's papers. He looked over his shoulder. He couldn't outrun them. He took his chances hiding in the shadows of an alleyway. As he entered, the sole inhabitants responded with fear and screeched as they ran, giving away the stranger's intentions.

In a last burst of despair, the man looked about him determined not to let this gang take him without whatever fight an average pencil pusher could muster. He found a broken leg of an abandoned wooden table and clung to it like it was his proverbial thread keeping him attached to the world that he knew.

There was nothing but a silence… a deceptive silence… an evil silence that he knew was the sign of an inevitable encounter. Those moments of stillness tore in his mind. His blood pumped in his veins like torrents in a tornado. It burned in his cheeks. Sweat began to pour freely down his face. His pulse resonated in his ears. He began to shake.

So determined was he not to be caught off guard, that he forced his lids to remain open, bringing tears burning in his eyes. He bit his teeth together and began to tighten his grip on the leg even more, pressing splinters into his paling skin, drawing thin streams of blood out of his trembling hand... Still nothing.

For the briefest of moments he thought they had forgotten about him, but the sudden sounds of footfall told him his wishful thinking was false. He levered his weapon in his hand.

The sounds grew louder. Now just around the corner. Beads of salty water began to run down his pulsing temples. The thought of never returning home brought a sudden shock of realisation to him. He was going to die. The fear of hopelessness took his last streaks of manliness from him and he began to cry in hysteric gasps. They all appeared at once.

From both sides of the alleyway entrance, the midnight prowlers came. The red bandannas were their calling cards; red for danger, red for blood, red for death. It was all he could do to shout abuse at them. He knew nothing would deter them but no options were left to him. One youth, wielding a club, stood against six hooligans armed with knives, maybe even guns. What more could he do?

They blocked the only way out. He cursed for leading himself into this god forsaken hole. The smell began to turn his stomach and bile rose to his throat. He swore at them again and they laughed at him. He would have laughed as well if he was in their place but he cursed nonetheless.

The first one stepped up to the pathetic wretch and drew out a flick knife. He waved it to see the fear in the man's eyes turn to fresh tears. Now the cries for mercy came.

Offering all he had and more the man begged to be let to live. He was wasting his voice. The youth came at him and grabbed his hand in a mid swing. With a quick jolt, the chair leg was on the ground and the man's wrist was broken. He cried all the more but it was hopeless. His last tears faded under the laughter.

They kicked him until he could cry no more. They beat him all over his body, leaving his face intact: his mouth to scream, his nose to smell the defecation of his body, his ears to hear the sound of each kick, each break of his own bones, his eyes, to see the disfigurement of his frame and form into a hopeless mound of flesh.

When they were done, the leader took his knife and scored the man's skin around his otherwise untouched head. He was just another statistic now; the newest victim to wear the red bandanna.

Ray's Bar. March 4th, 21:45

'Just give him your wallet, you dumb shit!'

'Hey! Shut the fuck up. Or do you want a cap in your ass? Now give us your wallet bro or I'll give ya a facial!'

'Hey! What's taking so fuckin' long?'

'This punk thinks he's bein' a hero.'

'Waste him!'

'Sure thing. Now you've done it, you dumb fuck... Y' gonna die now!'

The stranger didn't move. He just sat on the torn leather bar stool not even flinching as the thug approached him with the Berretta, like he didn't even know he was there.

The barrel pressed against his neck and still he didn't move, he just took his glass and finished the last drops. Then… it was all over.

Three gangsters lay in separate pools of blood on the cracked tile floor while the stranger strode past them, head down, fists clenched inside his tracksuit. The hostages cowered in fear, unsure if they had just been rescued or exposed to a new and worse threat. The owner followed him with terrified eyes, keeping his hands firmly behind his head.

Then he was gone.

Caracord Scrap Yard. March 4th, 22:10

Don't shoot the messenger. That was the prayer that the kid was reciting over and over in his head. Standing in front of the boss was an honour, yes, but one he would have rather reserved for a another time, if he knew what that even meant; being taken from the streets at the age of eleven, he had no real concept of 'reserving' anything: 'take' and 'now' were really the only etiquette he knew.

Just don't take it out on me. So three of the lads were dead. Shit happens. They all knew that. Accidents happen. Gang wars are inevitable, so what. They were the toughest gang in the whole of Cityscape. Any threat made to them, they'd just visit it back tenfold, twenty, a hundred… They weren't the most dangerous gang because they killed whoever crossed them, they weren't the most feared because they scored a bandanna into their victim's heads. They were the best because they never let anything go. No insult went unpunished, no challenge went unmet, and no-one, fucking no-one killed a bandanna and lived to talk about it.

The boss sat behind his desk. Not quite the businessman he wanted people to think, he wore a leather jacket, riddled with tears and scratches. He had a tattoo down his neck, an Oriental dragon holding a sword. His eyebrow had been pierced once; now just a scar that hadn't been allowed to heal testified to it. On the desk were a few documents. No-one quite knew what he spent his time doing; their job was terror and crime, not trade and commerce. Still, no one questioned the boss; he had a 45 Magnum on him at all times, after all.

It was the very presence of the Magnum that instigated the youth's fear of his own message. That and the silence that followed his report. Three dead, no trace of the man who had done it and no chance for retribution. This was a bad day.

The boss raised his hand to his chin and brushed his fingers against his stubble before putting his hand into his jacket. The appearance of the mobile phone set the youth at ease. A false sense of ease followed by a blow to the head by one of the boss's body guards.

'The river.' Following the boss's command, the youth was carried out and he was left alone. The phone flipped open and key '1' was held. The screen read BOSS. 'Evening. Sir. It's him again.'

Ray's Bar. March 4th, 22:37

'What do you mean you don't know what happened?'

'Like I said, one minute he was just sitting on the stool and the next the three guys were just… dead.'

'Just dead.'


'And this stranger just killed them… just like that?'


'And you didn't get a glimpse of him?'

'I described him to the other officer.'

'Oh, yeah: "Medium height, medium build, man between 15 and 50 with dark hair"; a great description.'

'That's all I saw.'

'Fine. Just sign the statement. We'll get back to you if there's anything else. And if you remember anything else, his shoe size, whatever, call me on this number and this extension, OK?'

'…Yeah. Sure. Thanks officer.'

The witness turned away, slipping the business card into his back pocket. He'd probably only remember about it after he collected his clothes from the laundry.

'I don't get it. Ten witnesses and this is the best description I get. And how the fuck does one guy take out three gangsters with semis, and nobody even catches a glimpse of his face? Shit… I don't need this.'

'Do any of us?'

'What does the coroner say?'

Not much more than we already know. The one near the bar took a pretty good hit to the temple. The one near the door took a bullet in the throat and the third one was hit in the forehead. Hell, this guy's good.'


'You know, I mean, he's a good shot, hell, three dead and not even one returned fire. So what d' you want to do about it…?'

'What do you mean?'

'Well are we gonna to look for this vigilante or are we gonna shut the case?'

'These bandannas have been pissing in my pool for the last seven years. I'm gonna take 'em down, don't you worry about that. But how can I get a fucking lead if these pricks keep on capping them? How the fuck am I supposed to question a corpse!?'

'Ease up, sir.'

'You watch your fucking mouth! We're gonna find this shit. He's been jerking me off for months.'

'What? You think it's the same guy as in that O'Reilly incident?'

'What the hell d' you think? Same shit different day. One guy, who no-one seems to be able to describe, wipes out six gangsters, and nothing's taken. It's the same vigilante alright.'

'But there's no proof.'

'It's the same guy.'

'How do you know?'

'Are you questioning me? I've been fighting gun crime in this town for—'

'For fifteen years, I know.'

The lieutenant took a packet of cigarettes from his coat pocket and tapped it against the back of his hand until one appeared amidst the others. He raised it to his lips took out his Zippo lighter. It had the Playboy symbol engraved on it. He lit the cigarette and then stuffed both lighter and packet back into his pocket.

The police had taken their time to arrive. It had been a busy night. A contraband firearms bust had been taking place at the docks, the other side of town. Three officers dead and most of the shipment escaped. Dobson was in no mood to deal with his protégé's disillusions of importance. 'So how are we gonna find him?'

'We'll find him.'

'So where do you want to start?'

The tobacco burned steady as Dobson inhaled. He held the smoke in his mouth for a few seconds, waiting for Dovet's patience to wear down. He breathed the smoke out of his nostrils and watched as the two pillars of smoke dissipated into the night's chill. '...O'Reilly's.'


Louten Avenue. March 5th, 20:45

The back door of a Chinese restaurant burst open and a lone figure ran out colliding with the opposite wall. His left arm broke his fall, scraping against the jagged bricks. He clutched his right thigh and fell into a broken run towards the faint streetlights at the end of the alley, past heavy fumes emitting from the vents, blood imprinted with every other step. Hearing the sound of pursuit, he gritted his teeth and looked back, the road so close.

As his head turned a dark figure ran towards him, bringing his right fist in his wake, ready to strike, but as the wounded man made a fist to block, the aggressor withheld and raised his left foot instead, pounding on the bloodied thigh. The man screamed with agony. A quick jab in the ribcage and he doubled over, his hands outstretched on the dirty ground. A knee met his face and he fell back again, blood now running freely from his face. He tried to clench his fists but they wouldn't hold.

The dark figure stood over him, a grimace of satisfaction on his face.

The old man reached down and took the young man by the hair pulling him up to his knees forcing his head back.

The victim struggled against the heavy wrist but to no avail. The grip tightened. The youth riled as he saw his captor raise an open palm before him. His exposed neck seemed so fragile then, but that wasn't what was in danger. He raised his hands to protect his nose, but the old man just kicked them out of the way and planted a hard foot on his wrist.

The drum of his pulse filled his ears. The hand raised again. The… Light. Blinding light flooded over them. Noise. Sirens blared out in their direction. A loud speaker. A command, an order. 'Stand back! Hands on your head!' Moments of confusion. The old man covered his eyes. His hold loosened.

Hands shot to the aggressor's wrist and twisted. A breath later he was halfway up the fire escape in the alleyway with wiry police voices calling him back and firing into the black.

They turned their attention back to the second man and met nothing but a spotlight amid shadow. No sign. No sound. Vanished.


Flat 7, Nirvana Apartments. March 5th, 21:26

'You need a doctor. You're lucky you didn't bleed to death. Look, are you gonna say something?' Carol withdrew the damp cloth from his thigh and huffed in frustration.


'That's it? Thanks? How about telling me what the hell is going on? Last I saw of you, you were going out for some Chinese food, next thing I know you're lying outside my door, clothes torn to shreds and blood staining the carpet. You know I'm going to lose my security deposit because of that. I'm not your own personal nurse, you know.

'Sorry. I'll find somewhere else.' He made to stand but she pushed him back down onto the bed.

'Don't be stupid. Where else would you go?' She went on to clean the wound, taking care not to sting him too badly with the antiseptic. 'So how did this happen, anyway?'

He remained silent, preferring to keep the story inside his own head.

'Huh? You get into a fight with a dog? No… too clean... You haven't been picking a fight with gangsters have you? She giggled to herself, the thought almost too ridiculous to contemplate.

'It's a long story.'

'Fine, if that's how you want to play it. But just don't expect me to always be here to sew you back together. I have a life too, you know.' Carol placed her patient's hand on the damp cloth and took out a needle and thread from a medical kit she kept in her room. Closing one eye she placed the thread carefully in the eye before raising his hand again and removing the quickly bleeding wound. He winced as he saw the needle approach. Carol smiled at his reaction. 'You're not scared of a needle, are you?'

'No. I… I just thought there'd be another way of doing it.'

'There is, but it doesn't always hold. This is a guarantee. Besides, I don't have any clips for this kind of injury. If you want I can call the hospital, but you'll have to explain what happened.'

'No. It's ok.' Carol proceeded to sew the wound together, wiping away any excess blood as she did so. He cringed with each piercing but didn't make a fuss.

When she was done she cleaned the skin again and took out a fresh bandage and wrapped his thigh. She tied the knot a little tight just to make him take notice. This wasn't the first time she'd found him bleeding from a wound that he wouldn't explain and she doubted it would be the last, though she didn't understand how he could lose so much blood and still be standing. 'Look, Nick is coming round this evening; bringing a bottle of red. I was going to make a casserole.' She waited for a look of rejection or a reply of unreasoned jealousy, but neither came so she went on. 'Now I'm gonna have to settle for frozen steak. Look, are you gonna hang around here tonight, 'cause if you are tell me now so I can change plans.'

'Don't bother. I'll take care of myself.' He made to rise again and this time she didn't stop him. He clumsily fell onto his good leg, still clearly suffering from a spell of dizziness. His trouser leg fell at his side like an abandoned swab cloth.

Carol watched him walk off with a hunch. His tight back was carrying far too much unseen weight. As he walked he reached over to his shoulder. One of two symmetrical scars ran under his fingers, down his collar bone. They seemed to pain him. He never spoke about them, so Carol had no idea how they were sustained.

He stumbled in to the bathroom. The doorbell rang. Carol glanced at her watch and swore for letting time fly past her. She ran to the door, taking out her hair stick, letting her tresses tumble about her shoulders.

As she opened it, she threw the blood stained cloth aside and grabbed her purse. Nick smiled and handed her a wrapped bottle of wine. '…Vienna, 1980.'

She placed a hand on his chest and pushed him out of the doorway before he could get his foot in. 'I need to get out of the house, I feel awful; can't cook. Take me somewhere.' Carol took hold of the door and called back before closing it. 'See you later, Hun.'

With slight puzzlement Nick stepped backwards, 'Hun?'

'My cat.'


Akatoy Tower. March 5th, 23:14

'Fifty thousand now and another fifty thousand when you bring me his head.' The old man slid a briefcase across the desk to his guest, who reached for it with good grace. He didn't lose sight of his host, not even when he unlocked it and checked the contents.

Closing the briefcase again, the man rested it next to his seat and nodded.

'Just one mark.' He slid a photograph to a waiting hand. It was a perfect portrait of a young Japanese man, black hair brown eyes, well built with a patterned tattoo on his arm. 'Do not underestimate him. He is a devil in disguise. I've lost many men on his trail already.'

'Mr. Akatoy, I am sure that your men are well trained and formidable, however, please, you would do well to leave this to me.'

'Your reputation is formidable, that is why I am hiring you. However, you would do well to remember, I too have a formidable reputation. Fail me and you will see what my reputation stands to. Interfere with my business or ventures and the like will occur. You are being hired to eliminate a mark, not to stalk me.'

The man slid the photograph into his jacket pocket and raised his brow in humoured offence. 'I have no idea what you are getting at, Mr. Akotoy.'

'As I said, you have a renowned reputation.' Akotoy proceeded to take newspapers from a hidden source and to throw them onto the table. 'G. F. Garrison, murdered by hit-man. D. Aaronsby, assassinated by unknown villain. There are more, but I am sure you are aware of each and every case. You enjoy targeting businessmen, big targets. Trust me, Mr. Kiv, you are being assigned a job by me. If I discover that your loyalties are being tainted, I will have no issue with reconsidering our arrangement. Understood?'

'Understood.' Kiv made to stand. His black shirt and suit collar shimmered in the faint light. He picked up his case and tucked his chair in.

The room was long and it took him some moments to reach the door, but when he did Akotoy called him. 'Mr. Kiv, he is more deadly than he appears. Be careful.'

'I am always careful, Mr. Akotoy. That's why I'm still alive.'


Flat 7, Nirvana Apartments. March 6th, 00:47

The door creaked open ajar but stopped there. Carol's handbag found its way past the barriers of wood and darkness and rested on the key table in the hallway, but the owner remained outside in the hall for a few more, silent moments.

Once emotions had been shared and future arrangements had been confirmed, Carol allowed herself be swallowed back into her home where she had left her stray hours before. There were no sounds and no lights. A frustration that perhaps he had gone again covered her, then she heard a soft whimpering.

She walked towards her bedroom and the sounds grew louder. It wasn't fear, it was confusion mixed with anxiety. She wanted to know what was going on, she wasn't scared of it.

She pushed the door open until she could see who whole room before her, but all she saw was darkness and a silhouette on her bed. 'Jei? Are you okay?' She reached to turn on the lights but was interrupted by a panicked voice to refrain from doing so. She paused, a little unsure of herself. Why was she taking orders from someone in her flat? No, she would turn on the light and see what he was doing in her room, on her bed.

As soon as the light was turned on she wished she could turn it off again and with it the image the lay before her. Blood, so much blood, staining her duvet, her carpet, her walls even. A massacre and yet no victim. A horror and yet no corpse. 'What in the name of God happened in here?'

'Please, don't let me go, please don't let them take me.' The words came out broken, like unsure cries from a child to his parent asking not to be made to go to school, or to a place where they would be without constant care and attention. 'Don't let them take me, I… I can't survive out there, not without…'

Carol was at his side, but found it difficult to find ways to comfort him. He was stained with blood all over his shoulders and back. There was so much blood and yet he was still conscious, still in congress of himself. The blood was running from his collar bones, where the scars were. They seemed to be fresh and new, they seemed to be only just healed, still red and sore. The blood must have come from there, but how, why? What was Jei not telling her, except everything?

He fell against Carol's arm and seized it like a child. His pleas for help made less and less sense until he was half asleep, shaking in irregular spasms of pain or tortured memory. Carol hushed him and lowered her lips until they were brushing against his hair. 'I'm here for you.'








Copyright © 2007 Andrew Capone

A B O U T   T H E   A U T H O R:

Andrew Capone: I am a teacher from the Kent, UK currently working in Ecuador. I have been writing for about three years and I am now starting to send my work out to magazines online, hoping to build up some credits before I submit a novel I have written to a publisher.

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