Prologue

The Game

 

Woodburn, OR

April 2nd, 2010

9:07 pm

 

 

“See, this is how it goes.  A name was picked, and it was yours. There’s no riddle to it, no purpose other than this: it’s a game, and we play to win.”

The old woman sat up, her lined and wrinkled cheeks flush with anger as she spoke, “This isn’t a game!  You’re torturing innocent peop-aggh!”  Blood and pieces of teeth flew as the butt of his trusty (trusty trusty never rusty) sidearm smashed into the old biddy’s lips, mashing them against her teeth and splitting them open in the process.

“Stow it old bag, you know what I’ve said about that.”  He waved the index finger of his left hand at her in an accusing manner, but the smile never left his face.  No, one had to be at least somewhat civil, he couldn’t be disturbed and agitated, that was left to those who joined The Game later on.  Everything was going just fine, like the time before this, and the time before that, and the time before with old Jack Sprat.  That thought almost made him laugh, though the smile was enough as he looked upon the older couple with a cold, hard gaze that did not share in the glacial chill of his predator’s smile.

Eppie was scheduled to arrive soon with the new “recruits”, or “contestants”, as he liked to call them.  The old, saggy-skinned couple would sit in the Loser’s Circle soon, and then The Game would continue, simple as that.  The Game had to continue, that was simple enough to understand, but there always had to be losers, so that the winner could feel some sense of accomplishment, some rush of adrenaline that winning managed to bring.

“Young man,” the old man said, almost pleading as his droopy eyes looked small in his face, almost like one of those old basset hounds.  All he had to do this time though was raise his gun, and the old buzzard shut right the hell up.  It was good to have power over people, especially when all one had to was gesture.  This was what God must have felt like back in His heyday.

“You’ve talked for as long as you needed sir, for now you can just sit there, soil yourselves, and listen to your bodies continue to ferment for all I care.  All that matters is that you keep those lips shut unless I say so. Got it?”  His smile broadened at the old couple as the woman glared at him.  Her bloodied lips were trembling, though he couldn’t decide if this was from fear or anger.  Either way it didn’t really matter, they were being quiet, which meant they were being good as he’d told them.  That was what really mattered, that they realized who was in control, because it sure as hell wasn’t them.  This was just too much fun.

Looking off to his left, through the dining room window that sat just beyond the heavy wooden table that could have seated six or eight, he could see that the night was fast approaching, the last few wisps of daylight clinging stubbornly as the darkness tried to crowd them out.  That was good.  He almost laughed at the sight, finding that the struggling light was almost in a way like the stubborn old couple, who had at least tried to give him a hard time over the past two days.  It had taken some doing, but they’d learned their damned place finally, especially when he’d beaten both of them about the hips and abdomen, two areas he knew from experience could be problem areas on people in their advancing years.  He hadn’t been able to avoid laughing when the old woman had nearly shit herself after being struck hard in the lower abdomen.  The stench that had come from her was horrendous, but it had made him laugh all that much more.

Nighttime was always easier to work with, it dulled and masked features that otherwise stood out.  He’d pulled the vertical blinds over the glass sliding door that led out to the back patio as well.  Despite there being little view except from the upper floors of the homes on the other side of the couple’s fence, it still wouldn’t do for anyone to just happen to glance out their window and see something they shouldn’t.  That was how The Game could get complicated, and the more simple it was, the more chance that he could continue.  He’d taken every precaution he could think of, in fact the process he’d clung to for so long had undergone only a few changes each time, in order to keep those that arrived late to the party guessing.  Thus far The Game had run for many years, and no one had been the wiser as to figuring out his pattern.  That was simply because there wasn’t one.

His attention was diverted in that moment by the sound of a car pulling into the driveway outside, it’s purring engine barely noticeable save to those who were waiting for such a thing.  Craning his head to look out the window just a little further he saw as headlights turned from the residential road just beyond the driveway, highlighting the cracked and patched cement that made up the simple drive.  The car, a sedan he could see, pulled into the drive just a little too quickly, and as the engine was cut off, the headlights were cut with just as much haste, causing him to frown in irritation.  Turning back to the old couple his smile returned as he shrugged his shoulders in a “what are you going to do?” gesture.

“I told that kid to slow down, not make it look like he’s in a hurry. And what does he do?  He guns the car into the driveway like a maniac and snaps off the headlights like he’s afraid someone will see him.  Like he’s trying to be inconspicuous.  Kids,” he said, shaking his head, “Patience is not a virtue of the young.”

Stepping closer to the old couple he glanced at his watch while still keeping the smile on his face.  The old woman had one hand over her bleeding lips now, the blood dribbling past her gnarled fingers and down her chin as it dripped down onto her lap, staining the tan slacks she’d chosen to wear.  Her eyes were filled with a hatred that might have stopped his heart cold if such a thing were possible.

“Damn kid took longer than I thought he would.” Now he really wasn’t sorry about what he had to do.  The sound of car doors being shut reached his ears as he closed his eyes briefly, not worried that the two elderly folks would try anything. They’d be fools to do so, he could overpower both of them with one arm, and besides that, they weren’t anywhere near healed from the beating he’d given them, with an item from their own home no less.  It was a wonder what a normal, wooden rolling pin could be used for.  From rolling cookie dough to smashing in an elderly person’s stomach it was a tool that had many uses, though incriminating him would not be among them.

The sound of the front screen door opening was followed quickly by the slight rattling of the knob as the door was thrust inward, squealing only slightly on its hinges as hurried footsteps followed closely on the heels of the light noise.  His smile did not fade as the steps echoed mildly on the hardwood floor of the entryway.  He could hear a soft, plaintive snuffling as a young couple, maybe in their mid-twenties, were followed by Eppie and his large, ridiculous-looking .357 Magnum.  He’d told the kid more than once that the Magnum wasn’t a practical weapon, it was a hand cannon.  It would blow a hole the size of a fist or bigger in whatever it was aimed at, but truthfully it was the worst choice for someone like Eppie.  The eighteen-year old was a hundred pounds soaking wet, maybe.  From his tousled brown hair down to his scuffed Reeboks the kid looked like a skater punk through and through, but in reality he was just a scared, excited little nobody.  That was why he was so perfect.

“Did you get lost or something? I gave you the directions.”

Eppie glared at the younger couple before responding.  It was in that moment that he could see a large bruise on Eppie’s jaw and could only assume that it hadn’t been caused by an accident.  His smile grew a little wider.

“Dick-face here,” Eppie waved the barrel of his gun at the man, who surprisingly didn’t flinch, “had to get all noble and try to save his bitch.  I told him no one was gonna get hurt, but he didn’t believe me.”  He almost bristled at Eppie’s vulgar language, but held himself in check.  He could see from the evidence of bruises and a long cut down the woman’s left cheek that Eppie had gotten a little rough.  That was not normally how The Game was played.

He felt the need to apologize to the woman, but doing so in front of Eppie would be bad form, and worse, it might signal to the young man that all was not proceeding as it should.  It didn’t matter much he knew, in the next day or two he would be doing much worse, but formalities still had to be followed.  It wasn’t proper to get rough unless there was no other choice, or until the rules had been explained.  He had to admit though, despite the cut on her cheek and the terrified look in her eyes, the woman was quite pretty.  Her long, strawberry-blonde locks were mussed up a bit thanks to Eppie’s regrettable rough treatment, though he could easily imagine them tied back into a long ponytail, with perhaps a few wisps dangling over her eyes, which were a rather dull shade of blue.  No matter, she was still attractive.

Bringing himself back to the present he looked to Eppie, “You made sure you weren’t seen, right?” Eppie nodded his head impatiently, his mop of hair moving with the motion as it flopped into his face before he combed it away with his fingers.  The new couple were both nice-looking, clean cut, and very afraid.  This was good, this was very good.

“Well then,” he said, turning his attention back to the older couple, disregarding the new folks and Eppie for a moment, “Ed, Rose, it’s been a helluva good time, and you’ve been for the most part cooperative and entertaining, but now The Game has to continue.  So, if you wouldn’t mind, well, even if you do mind, it’s time to enter the Loser’s Circle.” Before the old man or woman could even blink he raised his weapon, squeezing the trigger once as the old man, Ed, his name was Ed, went falling back to the faded, floral print couch, a chunk of blood-spattered brain and bone preceding him by only a split second.  Rose did not move, she had no chance to, as the second bullet took her right between the eyes, sending her backward to sprawl against her husband’s body, where she sagged almost instantly against him.  It was a pose that brought to mind the gentle caress of lovers from so many different cinematic depictions, Rose leaning against her husband’s chest, her cheek pressed against his body as Ed acted as the woman’s support.  He spent only a few seconds looking at the couple, his smile never fading as he imagined those that would find the old couple soon enough.  He doubted they would find the warmth in the couple’s current pose, which was quite random and yet somehow perfect.  They would just see a homicide, a terrible crime committed upon two elderly folk that might not have had that many years left anyway.

Behind him came the sound of a stifled scream, making him smile even more as the threat of being next had obviously kept the woman from letting loose with the peal of terror she no doubt wished to voice.  Turning to the couple he saw as the woman buried her face in her husband’s shoulder, while the man simply glared at him and Eppie.  That was okay, anger was allowed, but if it prompted action, then The Game might get a little more complicated.  Interesting no doubt, but complicated still.  Even as he watched though, the man’s gaze traveled from him, then to Eppie, and then to the old couple, where it remained riveted as though by some irresistible force.  He narrowed his eyes, thinking that this was somewhat interesting.

There was little time for speculation however.  Even with a silencer to stifle the shots, the muzzle flashes could have been seen lighting up the interior of the living room, which was a risk he knew was calculated but unavoidable.  If those around this neighborhood knew the old couple they might think something was amiss if they’d happened to see the flashes, and there was little if any need to draw further attention to the current proceedings.  Looking to his accomplice he nodded.

“Eppie, you’re up,” he said, taking a step back from the old couple in their gentle repose, “Give me your gun and get those slugs out.”  Eppie pushed his way past the younger couple, who shied away from him as though in disgust. He couldn’t blame them, Eppie was a disturbed young man, though he had his uses, at least for this moment.  The two didn’t even look as though they were considering running, which was good.  That would only complicate The Game, and he had no qualms about shooting them in the back and making Eppie pull the slugs out of their bodies as well.  Hell, the young man would probably climax with the sheer thought.

Eppie almost thrust the Magnum at him as he cast his wild eyes to the old couple, his mop of dark brown hair falling into his face again as he licked his lips.  Oh yes, this young man had issues.  As he took a step to stand in front of the elderly couple it seemed as though his pants had tightened up a bit in the front more than a little.  Now that was just a bit disturbing

The young man knelt eagerly upon the carpet in front of the elderly couple, not seeming to mind the random blood spatters that adorned the carpet in front of them and the surrounding areas.  He licked his lips again as he reached for the old man first, his fingers almost trembling as the excitement in his eyes could be easily seen.  That excitement was quickly erased with confusion as he felt the soft surface of a couch pillow thrust against the back of his head.

“Hey, what-“  He’d been about to ask what was going on, or what he was doing, but unfortunately, poor, misguided Eppie never had the chance.  His last thought was over before it had the chance to fully form, his expression never changing as his brains and several chunks of bone were thrown violently against the old woman’s front.  The bullet lodged quickly in Rose’s midsection, meaning it would be a messy excavation to remove.  Oh well, it wasn’t to him that such a task would fall.

Even with the pillow to muffle the noise the Magnum was quite loud as its slightly muffled boom went off in the confined area of the house.  He heard another smothered cry from behind him, turning to see the couple had still not tried to run.  That was rare, but it was also fortunate.  His smile was still in place as he turned to regard the younger couple, almost gleeful over what was to come next.

“Now that that’s over, I have one little task for the two of you, it’s really important and time is unfortunately an issue.  If you could just pick up where my young friend left off, we can get going that much sooner.”  Before the man could even open his mouth he’d grabbed hold of the woman, dragging her by her luscious reddish-blonde locks as she cried out more in pain than surprise.  Oh this was just wonderful, in fact he was beginning to get a bit excited just at the thought of what he could possibly do to her.  As the woman reached pleadingly for her husband he yanked hard on her hair once more, keeping his own weapon trained just beneath her jaw as he drew her close.  He’d dropped the Magnum, useless weapon that it was, in order to keep a hold on the woman.  And his smile had never once wavered.

“Keep in mind just how loud that shot was Mr. Layman, and try to remember that we’re on a rather serious timetable.”

“Your friend already told us,” the man said, his tone flat and tinted with only a hint of anger. Oh yeah, this guy was damned near gone, almost completely disassociated with the current reality.  That would have to be remedied, but not now, and not here.

Smiling still, “Then he was good for something wasn’t he?  Now if you please, chop chop.”

 

 

West Linn, OR

Baez Residence

9:57 pm

Close to an hour since the time Eppie had brought the Layman’s, he was seated in the back of the young couple’s, Peter and Amelia their names were, Ford sedan.  Its dusky gray interior was far different from its deep, metallic green sheen, though its backseat was at least comfy enough.  He’d not stopped smiling in all that time since he’d watched Peter dig the bullets from the heads of the elderly couple and the one slug from Rose’s abdomen.  He’d allowed the man to use a carving knife from the old buzzards’ kitchen, though since he’d still held Amelia at gunpoint Peter had been wise enough not to try anything.  He was in control of The Game, just how it was supposed to be.

This had so far turned out to be a good and very entertaining night. Seated behind Amelia, he held his pistol to the back of her seat, fully confident that even if the half-comatose Peter tried anything, the woman would be the first to die.  A punctured lung, a shot to the heart, neither would be a very good death, and as a devoted husband Peter seemed capable of realizing this.  The night had been good, and it was only bound to get better.

As his cell phone chimed in the front pocket of his custom-fitted leather jacket he reached for it, flipping the phone open to see who was calling first.  His smile widened just a bit as he saw who it was.

Placing phone to ear he smiled wider as he spoke, “Andy!  I was hoping you’d call on time you dog!  So, are you ready to play?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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