Relentless

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He made a mistake in not finishing the job when he tried to kill me.

It was a tactical error assuming the bomb in the living room of my house permanently put my lights out. He should have checked closer. Gone through the rubble after the fire died down. But he didn’t, and a police dog discovered me (barely breathing) as the authorities were going over the crime scene.

I spent the next two years going through painful plastic surgeries designed to make my face look halfway human. In addition, I suffered through countless skin grafts for my chest, arms, and legs that were also severely burned. The end result, when they released me, was that I looked like something out of a horror show. But I was alive. Motivated by all-consuming hate, and the opportunity for revenge.

I’m going to back up here for a moment, and give you some background.

My brothers Will and Steve, and I, started a computer software company ten years ago. Against all odds our little start-up was successful and we were barely able to keep up with all the business that came in. We all worked endless hours to make the company a success for three years. By the fourth year we decided to add a partner to the company. He promised to take us to the next level in marketing. The fast-talking computer whiz’s name was Dan Bob Binion. He was already a successful businessman when he met my brothers and I. By that time, Steve and Will were married and homes of their own. I owned a house and had a live-in girlfriend. We sold the house that we were living in and put the money into the business.

Binion was a greedy little weasel that often struck me as a modern-day Ponzi. If it wasn’t for his marketing expertise we never would have brought him aboard. He did have a lot of industry connections and the Midas touch when it came to making good deals. In his first year with us, our profits soared over the year before. The following year my brother Will died in an auto accident. Steve and I mourned him, and set his wife Sally up for life. I remember what a tough year it was to celebrate our profit with Will gone. Binion, who always kept to himself, continued to open up new markets for our latest digital products, a line we started the year before.

In the eighth year of our partnership, Steve was the victim of a hit-and-run in the parking lot of our business building. Despite cameras, the police couldn’t find the gray sedan that struck him. When I found out what happened, I fell into a deep depression and stopped coming to work. Binion kept things going for months as I grieved for my last sibling.

One day I felt good enough to go back to the office and see how things were going. As soon as I opened the door, my office manager (Sally’s sister Trish) got up from her desk and led me over to my office. Closing the door behind her she asked me to sit down. She came right to the point; “Binion ran Steve over!” she hissed.

I was shocked but quickly recovered and asked her if that were true why didn’t she tell the police? She candidly admitted she was afraid of what Binion might do.

“How do you know it was Binion?” I asked.

“Because he owned a gray BMW just like the one in the video. He didn’t drive it into work everyday though, preferring his Corvette. I saw it once before, about six months ago. He pulled it up by the red curb outside and took a box out of the trunk and set it down on the sidewalk. I remember wondering what was in the box.

“You didn’t tell the police this?”

“I’m sorry. It’s just that I’m afraid of him. He’s always given me the creeps. Especially when he first started hitting on me. I asked Sally what to do? She said she’d speak to Will and not to worry about my name coming up in the conversation.

“What happened?

“I’m not sure. Will never mentioned it to me.

As Trish spoke, a thought formed in my mind and I asked her when the incident happened? Her reply made my blood run cold. It was just weeks before Will died in an auto accident. Once that connection was made the ramifications hit me squarely between the eyes. Binion was taking over the company by murdering all of us. It was a simple but scary conclusion that made sense. It also made sense that I was going to be the next victim.

I stayed on high alert for weeks, waiting for him to make a move. Our paths crossed twice, during meetings with our department heads. That he could look me in the eye and smile, told me he was a sociopath (at the very least.) I changed my routines, sometimes canceling appointments at the last minutes. It was a deadly game of cat and mouse and I should have gotten the police involved. I thought I could handle the little weasel now that I knew his intentions. I’d stay a step ahead of him. That was my mistake. It was nearly my last one in this world. When that bomb went off I thought it was. But the gods of revenge didn’t desert me, they only disfigured me.

As I went through my surgeries I imagined that little monster was concerned that I could somehow pin the bomb on him. He tried to visit me twice, but was turned away by the doctor and the guard posted outside my door. When I was finally healthy enough to be released, I rented a room in a luxury hotel near my office and business.

That brings us up to right now.

I think he suspects that I know he tried to murder me, but is puzzled why I haven’t done anything about it yet. That’s good. I want him to worry. To have sleepless nights wondering when I’ll strike. Wondering if I even suspect him of trying to murder me? I want him to suffer. I’ve got a special location set up for him. It’s in a warehouse that I bought. It was once a slaughterhouse. It still has the hooks hanging from the ceiling where the sides of beef hung and rows of butcher block tables stained with years of blood.

I’ve made arrangements for Binion to be kidnapped today. A couple of friends of Will volunteered to deliver him to me at the warehouse. No questions asked. I’m in no shape to overpower anyone, or I would have done the job myself. It’s a challenge for me to even walk. I can’t wait for them to bring him here, and to see his fear when the blindfold comes off. I’ve got all the time in the world and a set of butcher knives Trish gave me.

What’s that?

Oh! It’s my guest! They’re bringing him in right now! You’ll have to excuse me because I’m going to be busy chatting with Binion as I butcher him!

As It Stands, revenge is best served…slowly.

Hunting for ‘X’ In All The Wrong Places

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He watched the government agent loitering outside the bank. Waiting for him. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed the agent’s private number. When the agent answered his phone there was a loud explosion!

A CIA bunker somewhere in Virginia.

“All right! Listen up! As you know you’ve been selected to be a part of a task force to take out X. I will tell you that you’re not the first team we’ve sent out for him. Two others have failed.”

“What happened to those teams?” one of the new members asked the instructor.

“They’re dead. Does that scare you Adams?”

“No, sir. Just curious.”

“Good! Now that you know, keep your trap shut and listen to the intel I’m going to be giving you, and the rest of the team in the coming weeks. Your lives depend upon it. We’ve learned from our encounters with X. He’s an international player with no country or cause that we can tell. He kills, and steals, for huge sums. He’s a master of multiple martial arts. Speaks dozens of languages, and has no family or friends that we can find. I hate to admit it, but we don’t even know what he looks like.

“How could that…?” Adams started to speak, then saw the instructor’s frown and stopped.

“Our quarry is a master of disguise, even going so far as to using mechanical exoskeletons to change his height and body size. We were able to confiscate one of the exoskeletons when we discovered one of his hiding places in Germany. No manufacturer’s marks. Our tech team thinks he built it himself.”

In the ensuing days of training the instructor, Major Jim Langhorn a longtime operative himself, put the recruits through their paces, challenging them mentally and physically until they were exhausted by the end of each day.

The major taught them all he knew about CIA spy craft tricks and inventions. There were code classes and classes on criminal psychiatry. Every crime that could be traced to X was studied intently. Hours were spent with profilers. They learned that no clue was too small. Above all, they were taught to never underestimate their quarry. He managed to elude authorities worldwide for over a decade. He was a legend in the spook communities.

The six-man team consisted of volunteers from various Special Forces units from the Army, Marines, and Navy. They were all in the top of the classes. The most-outspoken was Army Ranger, Jason Adams. He was the de facto leader of the team. After six weeks of intense training the team was told to be on 24-hour standby to respond to any intelligence the CIA or other US agencies might come up with.

A week passed and the men were becoming bored and listless. Then the call came. Major Langhorn told them they had a tip X was going to assassinate the new prime minister of Bulgaria. They were briefed on the flight over and arrived at a government airfield in Plodiv at noon local time.

Adams met with the local law enforcement who went over the prime minister’s schedule for the rest of that day and the next. He was due to attend a gathering of friends and family for his birthday at a private country estate the next evening. By the time Adam’s team deployed around the perimeter and joined the local special security units, it was starting to grow dark. Whoever thought that X would appear, took all precautions, including bringing the American team in.

Every person at the estate, including servants, were heavily vetted. No strangers were going to crash the prime minister’s party.

A black shadow flitted from tree-to-tree silently. It snuck up on one of the American team and engulfed it! The shadow kept prowling and killing for hours. Walkie talkies and phones didn’t work. Frequencies were blocked. When the shadow broke away from the tree line and ran up to the house, no one was there to see it. The guards were dead. Loud music played inside the large estate building. People could be seen dancing on an ornate ballroom floor made of marble.

The prime minister was in the center of the dancers, happily waving a goblet of wine and trying to dance himself. No one noticed the red dot on his forehead. But when the bullet went through his skull the woman behind him noticed and screamed when she was splattered with blood and brains! Pandemonium broke out as the guests charged for the doors.

The sun was slowly rising in the gray sky as authorities flooded the estate grounds the next morning. Adams escaped the night’s carnage, but four of his team didn’t. They were murdered at their posts. That just left him and the Navy seal, Gary Stevens. As they flew back on a government transport the two men talked about what happened. It was a classic X hit job in spite of the extraordinary precautions that were taken. It seemed almost supernatural the way he eluded his pursuers every time.

“It probably won’t make you feel much better, ” Major Langhorn was saying, “but you two are the first team members that X didn’t kill on a mission. We’re not sure why he bypassed you. Do you have any theories?”

“I’m not sure,” Adams replied, “but Stephens and I had changed our initial positions to adjust to the terrain better. We both felt exposed.”

 “Meaning...?”

“I think someone knew where everyone was going to be deployed,” he suggested.

“That’s normally the case. You’ve studied the others enough to know that.

“Yeah…I just can’t figure out how he does it. I’ve never been part of a more secure operation than this one, yet it went terribly wrong. It just doesn’t make sense.

Major Langhorn, Adams, and Stephens stopped talking and sipped their coffee.

“You know, coffee usually wakes me up,” Stephens said, breaking the silence.

Adams was having a hard time hearing Stephens. His words seemed to be slurred. He was having trouble keeping his eyes open and an alarm finally went off.

“Something’s wrong with the coffee!” he stammered, and tried to stand up.

Stephens was already sinking to the floor unconscious. Adams tried to focus on Major Langhorn’s face but it was blurry. He seemed perfectly all right. Unaffected by what was happening to him and Stephens.

“I’m sorry. I’m usually more efficient than that. You two escaping made me look sloppy. I’ll hand you that. I must be getting old. Maybe it’s time I retire, ahead of the game I’ve played all these years.

As It Stands, maybe there is really such a thing as perfect crimes.

Prelude To A Deadly Incident

Call centre in Newcastle.

Listen to this story as told by master story teller Otis Jiry.

Most of the people hired by the call center couldn’t find jobs elsewhere. They were society’s cast-offs. 

Each of the men and women in the call center had a story that led to their downfall in life. Being fired. Losing a job because of too much sick time. Losing jobs because of drugs. Petty criminals who never went beyond elementary school. Paroled criminals desperate for any job. Homeless people. Former street vendors who violated city rules and lost their licenses. Criminals. Gang members.

The one thing they all had in common was their need to make money.

So, they worked 12-hour shifts in a brightly lit warehouse dotted with workstations and only two ten-minute breaks. They read from scripts urging people to buy everything from insurance to vacation homes in the Bahamas. The products they promoted were generally scams. Supervisors roamed the floor like trolls, trying to catch someone not doing their job. The constant buzz of voices intermingling sounded like a colony of bees on a busy day. There was no air conditioning. The big overhead fans cycled so laboriously they threatened to spin-off their shafts.

Lucas felt his bladder bulging. When he could wait no longer he signaled for his last break of the shift. On the way to the men’s room he felt a growing anger with the world. After relieving himself and buying a bottle of water from a vending machine he went back to his workstation. The county health department kicked him out of the psychiatric program because he kept fighting with other patients.

Once released, he tried begging on street corners until he realized no one was going to stop for him. He figured it was his bald head that was festooned with tattoos of comic book characters. Whatever the reason, he had to try something else or starve. That’s when he saw the ad for the call center on a community billboard.

When he applied all they asked for was his name and social security number. His female interviewer did ask a few other basic questions, then outlined what his job would be. He half-listened to her while staring at her breasts. Nasty thoughts wiggled through his consciousness. He stuffed them down like snakes in a snake-charmer’s basket, trying to pay better attention to what she was saying.

“We pay $8.00 an hour. Do you have any questions?” she asked.

“Yeah…I don’t remember what you said about lunch.

“That’s because I didn’t say anything about having one. We don’t. Like I said before, you get two ten-minutes breaks every 12-hour shift. You can take them when you want to. That’s our policy.

“When can I start?”

“Monday. From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you’re late more than twice your fired. I’ll see you then.”

Lucas spent the weekend going through back alleys behind restaurants in search of food. He slept on a bench in the community park, using old newspapers for a blanket. When Monday arrived he was ten-minutes early to his new job.

The day flew by and before he knew it, the week was over and he was given a paycheck. He had to pay to get it cashed. After state and federal taxes he was left with $365. It was like a fortune! The first thing he did was rent a room by the week as close to the call center as he could. It left him with $115.00 for food and whatever. For the first time in years he smiled. It hurt his face.

Three months later he was still in the same room. It was the longest he’d lived inside somewhere since he was in the county program. He was wearing new clothes and shoes, not cast-offs from other people.  He was able to take a shower everyday. He could afford to eat out a couple of times a week. And he wasn’t happy.

He hated his supervisor at work.

Not because he was a homosexual. It was the fact that he wouldn’t stop hitting on him. He turned him down gently numerous times, but Lane didn’t seem to get the message, or he chose to ignore it. His constant sexual innuendos were grating on his patience. The fact that he was still there after three months was a testimony to how much he wanted to make money.

But he had limits. He exceeded those limits before and bad things happened to him. He was arrested and did short stints in different county jails. Lucas was a tall lean man without an ounce of fat on his frame. His sallow cheeks, thin aristocratic nose, and recessed eye sockets gave his face a skeletal look that was enhanced by his bald head. There was a look of wildness in his dark brown eyes that seldom blinked.

One day, while he was on his 10-minute break and taking a piss, the men’s room door opened and Lane came in. He walked up to the urinal next to Lucas and unzipped his pants.

“I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours.” he said coyly.

Something snapped in Lucas! The resulting carnage made the little room look like a slaughter house afterward. There were blood splattered walls, urinals, and stalls. Lane looked like a ragged doll with it’s face smashed into something unrecognizable. Lucas was covered in his blood when he stumbled out of the room and past the vending machines.

A woman in a nearby workstation looked over and saw Lucas. Her screams caused instant panic. A frightened herd mentality took over and 300 people left their stations at the same time. In the mass confusion, Lucas made it outside and ran down the street before anyone could stop him. He ran for miles through the city streets and alleys before finally stopping on the outskirts of town near a community forest.

He bent down, hands on his knees, and took deep gulps of air. His head slowly cleared. He touched the still-sticky blood on his shirt and knew he’d done it again. This time looked worse than the others from the amount of blood he had all over him. He suspected Lane was no longer alive. It wouldn’t be a county jail this time. Maybe prison for life. Maybe a death sentence.

He looked for a gas station with restrooms and washed his hands and face before the busy attendant could notice him. Still wearing his blood-soaked clothes he made his way down back alleys until he came to a service dock for the Salvation Army. There were bins of donating clothing piling up outside, waiting to be sorted and tagged. He went through the piles expertly and selected a long-sleeved shirt and pair of torn jeans. No one working there paid any attention to him.

He used the last of his money to buy a bus ticket to another state; Florida. He heard there were plenty of call centers there, and hoped to get a job again. Like always, he had to be careful another incident didn’t happen. He knew he was lucky to get away from the last one. As long as people didn’t mess with him, he knew he could lead a quiet and happy life.

As It Stands, I sometimes wonder how many Lucas’s live among us?

The Color of Truth

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I grew up seeing colors when people spoke.

It’s hard to explain, but I’ll try. I also see emotions in color. When I was little, I saw my mom in shades of blue when she talked with me. Blue is the color of truth, by the way.

If she was mad at me she didn’t have to say a thing. I could see the red glow and avoided her. I quit talking about colors to my mom and dad when I went into First Grade. They fluffed off what I was telling them about colors so I kept – what I then thought was a super power – to myself.

Little did I realize what that power would mean to me, and others, when I got older.

By the time I was out of high school, I was seeing brighter colors and more variations. For example, I knew when a person was depressed because they’d be surrounded with a gray highlight.

Sadness is purple. Anger is red. Green means someone is untrustworthy. Yellow is hope. Orange is love. Lies are black. Only I see these colors. No one else sees anything them. I’m cursed, or blessed, depending on how you look at it.

Here’s the kicker: when I’m around a lot of people it’s like tripping on some good LSD. The colors are fantastic! They blend into subtle tones that any artist would envy. Going through high school I seriously considered art as a career, but didn’t do anything about it when I graduated.

I briefly studied law at a local junior college thinking that with my ability to see truth or lies it would come in handy for a job – say as a judge. Being a cop, or detective, was another consideration, but frankly I preferred to avoid violence if possible.

In the end, I got a degree and became a 7th grade history teacher. I found the experience oddly satisfying even though it meant sometimes dealing with kids who were jerks. I admit to sometimes amusing myself with the smart guys in class by calling them on every lie they told. Pinning them like butterfly’s to a board, was a humbling experience for bullies too.

Overall, I had a good bond with most of my class. Students knew I was fair and that I didn’t believe in homework. There were always a select few who thought it was their duty to disrupt my class however.

There were two ring-leaders in particular who challenged me from the first day of the semester. Robbie McGinn, and Mike Hunter. Neither showed any interest in learning. They were aloof from other students, preferring their own company, and sitting apart from other students in the cafeteria.

I saw a green glow on both of them that seemed to grow fainter as the weeks went by, morphing into a new color – somewhere between green and black. I also noticed that their colors shifted rapidly at times. I started seeing brilliant flashes of red on both of the boys that would come and go in minutes.

One afternoon, after class let out, one of my students asked to speak with me. He heard a conversation between Robbie and Mike that disturbed him.

“They were talking about killing people here at the school,” the student, whose name was Paul, said. “I was in a toilet stall and heard Mike say they were going to have a kill count higher than any other shooting in the nation!”

I watched Paul speak and noted the color blue engulfing him before taking him to the principal to repeat his story.

Tom Blount, the principal, listened politely as Paul told him what he heard. I sat next to him in front of the principal’s desk. He thanked Paul for coming in and dismissed him, asking me to stay.

I noticed a green glow surrounded Blount. I was surprised and disappointed when he basically wrote off Paul’s warning.

“These kids,” he said condescendingly, “They’ll say anything. He probably had a gripe with one or both of the boys. I wouldn’t worry about it.”

I told him that wasn’t the way I saw it, but he brushed me off too. But I couldn’t let go of it. Not in this day and age. So I called the boy’s parents in for a conference. I talked with Mike’s parents first. That was a fiasco.

Instead of being concerned that their son might be plotting a massacre, they turned on me like rabid dogs! Both were glowing red, like two twin fires, as they accused me of bad-mouthing their kid.

Robbie’s parents were calmer. After repeating the bathroom conversation to them the father spoke up.

You know, of course, that you’re slandering my son with this tale of yours?”

He suddenly was bathed in a luminescent green. Once again, I found myself surprised and shocked by a parental reaction.

“I’m a lawyer Mr. Smith, and won’t allow anyone to speak badly about any member of my family. Robbie is a good boy, perhaps spirited, but that’s totally normal for a boy his age. I trust he won’t have a problem in your class now after this accusation?”

As they got up, I tried to say something, but they were both reflecting red flashes intertwined with a protective orange glow. It was useless. I sighed and gathered up a stack of papers to correct, and put them in my briefcase. I left the light on because the janitor was next door and my room was his next stop.

A week later, Robbie and Mike jumped Paul during recess on the playground, and beat him up. I happened to be the teacher on duty at the time and was distracted while arbitrating a verbal argument between two girls.

I did see the two culprits appear from behind the handball wall, walking fast with their heads down. They were both bathed in a brown light that I’d never seen before. I instantly knew that it meant mean and menacing.

By the time I got to the other side of the handball wall Paul was trying to sit up. His nose was bleeding and one eye was already swollen shut. I helped him stand up and offered to take him to the school nurse.

“No! I’ll go alone,” he said, and I saw him covered in a purple glow as he walked away. When I reported the beating to the principal he agreed to call the parents in and talk with them about their sons.

The next day I stopped by the principal’s office to hear about the result of the meaning. I was stunned when he said the parents told him their boys did not beat anyone up! And, that when he questioned Paul, he denied it was them who hit him. 

I noticed he looked down guiltily when he told me that one of the fathers was on the verge of suing me for harassing his son. It was a direct warning coming from a cowed school official.

As I mentioned before, I don’t like violence. The only gun in my house belonged to my great-great grandfather, a Smith and Wesson revolver in remarkable condition. When I went home that night I pulled it out of the little safe I had under my bed and found a box of .38 shorts inside too.

I never had a premonition before. It was scary. Something urged me to bring my gun to class in my briefcase. I popped it open and looked down the barrel. It looked squeaky clean. The pearl handle was weathered with time and had a thin crack on one side. I fired it once when my dad and I went up to a small firing range in the hills and tested it. He said the barrel was a little warped, but could be compensated for. I was twelve years-old at the time.

I felt nervous and uneasy the next day when I got to school. I kept looking down at my briefcase underneath the desk and thinking about the revolver. As the day wore on I forgot about it.

After taking the revolver to work with me for a month, I began to doubt my instincts and considered putting it back into the safe. When class started I made a mental note to leave it at home tomorrow.

Ten minutes into the study plan, Mike and Robbie burst through the door, each carrying an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. The students screamed and dropped down to the floor as they sprayed a hail of bullets just over their heads.

I dropped down behind my desk as they stitched a deadly pattern in the chalk board behind me. I opened my brief case, grabbed the loaded revolver and took a deep breath. The firing stopped and I heard empty loaders drop to the ground as they reached for replacements.

I looked under the desk and saw their legs. Without thinking I fired twice! There was an angry curse as Robbie fell down, dropping his weapon, and grabbed his bloody ankle. Mike fired a burst into the desk hoping to hit me, but I was already scooting out from underneath.

I stood up and saw Mike point his weapon in my direction as I fired the first shot! Something spun me around and my shirt was suddenly soaked in blood! As I collapsed in slow motion, I fired the last three shots in Mike’s direction before passing out.

When I woke up in a hospital three days later my elderly parents were at my bedside. A guard standing outside the door to my room looked in and saw that I was awake, he began talking into a radio on his shoulder.

Minutes later two police detectives arrived and asked my parents for some time alone with me. I repeated everything I could remember twice, before they were satisfied and left. They informed me that I killed Mike, and wounded Robbie…and that all of my students were safe because of my heroic action!

Then, as they walked out the door, a stream of my students filled the room with a brilliant combination of orange and yellow! I felt weak from my wound, but happier than I’d ever felt before.

Then a bright white light caught my eyes, and I became one with the universe.

As It Stands, some of us are gifted with the power to see beyond words through means that remain a mystery to the rest.

The Gentle Embrace of Death

Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry.

GangstersLouie Marozzi wasn’t part of anyone’s gang.

It’s true that Al Capone, Dion O’Banion, and Bugs Malone all asked him, at one time or the other, to drive trucks for them. But he turned them all down. He wanted to stay independent…no matter the cost.

Not only was Louie an exceptional driver, he was a giant of a man. At six-feet, seven-inches, and 340 pounds, he was a specimen to behold. People thought Big Louie, as many called him, wasn’t too bright.

He seldom spoke and when he did he stumbled over words, going from Italian to American in the same sentence. His appearance, with a dark unibrow and jutting forehead, probably furthered the narrative about his low intelligence.

He was slow to anger. He didn’t drink alcohol, or smoke cigarettes. The few friends he had were homeless, and lived on the streets of Chicago. His daily challenge was to stay out of the way of warring gangs.

Louie saw plenty of guys get gunned down in a hail of bullets from a passing car. The gangsters spent as much time killing each other as they did innocent victims. Dead men turned up all the time.

It was that environment that gave Louie his chance to kill people without getting caught. He wasn’t a violent killer, and never used a gun. He preferred to put his victims to sleep in his firm, yet strangely gentle, chokehold.

Unlike some psychopaths, Louie knew it was wrong to kill people. He justified his hobby by killing what he judged were bad men. He tried to keep the murders down to just a couple a week.

With the rate of weekly murders in the streets of Chicago in 1931, two more a week were easily lost in the shifting statistics.

In Louie’s mind he was doing his criminal victims a favor. They probably would have been violently killed by someone else. He was nice enough to make their passing painless and not traumatic.

Even in that violent time and city, there were whispered rumors of a serial strangler stalking the streets. The police, aware of the rumors – and the circumstances involving a string of choking victims – kept their eyes open for a suspect.

One day his friend Leo emerged from the streets, and hunted him down.

“I need your help Louie,” the shriveled old man pleaded.

“Sure Leo.

“A couple of thugs in Bugs Moran’s gang took Angelo this morning! They beat him up and dragged him into one of those big black cars and took off!”

“Why they do that?” Louie asked.

I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s about a briefcase he found in an alley, and they were looking for it.

“You sure Bug’s boy’s did it?”

“Yeah…I happen to know a couple of them. Ran a few errands for ’em.

“I’ll see what I can do come amico.”

As Louie walked back to where his truck was parked, he noticed a couple of thugs loitering around it. The first thing that went through his mind was Angelo convinced them he had the briefcase, in order to stay alive.

The normally calm and composed Louie was slowly melting away, as he watched them from the window of a shop he went inside of. He didn’t like being threatened. He looked at both men closely, memorizing their faces.

There was a rear exit in the shop and Louie took it out to the alley. He knew where the Moran mobsters hung out. There was one location in particular, a house, that he suspected they’d taken Angelo too.

It was a couple of miles away, but that didn’t bother him. He liked a good brisk walk. It helped calm him down. He didn’t want to shed blood. He just wanted to gently put them to sleep in his powerful arms.

He was right about the house. It was on a big lot and fenced in, but Louie had no trouble getting over the fence. As he got closer he heard a muffled scream. Louie sat down and waited for hours until the moon climbed to the top of the sky, before overpowering the sleeping guard on the front porch.

He went through the front door, surprisingly quiet for a man of his size. He took care of the two thugs sleeping in the living room. He went to the cellar door and opened it. He softly descended the stairs.

Another guard was asleep on a chair. Louie wished him sweet dreams and sent him to eternity. Angelo was a bloody pulp. His hands were tied behind him with twine, and he was unconscious.

Louie approached his body on the floor. He was laying sideways. He checked for a pulse and was surprised to find a weak one. He probably wasn’t going to make it from the looks of his smashed skull.

Louie sent him gently into the night.

No one knew what happened at the Bugs Moran gang’s house, because it was engulfed in flames set by Louie that night.

Locals said Moran’s gang never bothered Louie again. Some say it was because Al Capone and his thugs took a lot of Bug’s time just trying to survive.

Other’s say that Louie Marozzi was the most feared and famous killer in Chicago… that the public never heard about.

As It Stands, this tale is a chapter out of the urban lore from Chicago’s “gangster days.”

Dead Eyes

Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry.

Detective Bryce Nance left the crime scene after working it for two hours.

On his way back to the office he thought about retiring…again. He’d been threatening to retire for months. He was tired of waging war with death dealers. His brain was scorched with images of dead eyes, and mangled bodies.

Thirty years on the force now. Was he ready to leave? He wasn’t sure he wanted to retire. What would he do? He’d been a cop all of his entire adult life. He’d drive his wife of thirty years nuts, if all he had to do was piddle around the house!

As he filled out his report later he thought about the victim, a short oriental man who had both hands and feet cut off. The coroner said he bled to death from his massive wounds. No other wounds were found on the body.

It was the second body this week with the same wounds. Talk of a serial killer made its rounds in local newspapers and news television. When the second murder was announced the hashtag #HandAndFootPsycho popped up on social media platforms.

The chief-of-police, Dwayne Fitsimmons, got a call from the mayor who hated all the coverage the case was getting. Fitsimmons, in turn, called a meeting with his detectives and rank and file cops.

When he was done berating his men he let them go to work. Detective Bryce walked up to him afterward and asked for a minute of his time. When they got to his office and he told him that he was considering retiring, the chief rolled his eyes skyward and pounded his fist on the desk!

“You’ve got to be kidding me Bryce! You’re the best detective we have! You’re good for at least five more years. Is it a raise? I’ll give you a raise!”

“No…it’s not about the money chief. I’m tired of seeing dead eyes in my dreams.”

“Awww…Bryce me lad…”

“Don’t give me that phony Irish accent, I’m serious.”

“Is that the way it is? Then you might want to check with your union steward, but you still have two years to go before voluntary retirement is possible. It’d be a terrible thing to lose after all these years of service because…”

“I’m outa here!

Chief Fitsimmons lit up a cigar as Detective Bryce stormed out the door. He took a couple of puffs and shook his head. He had enough things to worry about.

Two days later.

Detective Bryce came up with a working theory.

Both victims were found in city streets. Not inside somewhere. Whoever committed the crimes must have acted swiftly because there were no witnesses. Both murders happened at night on what were busy roads during the day.

He thought about the fastest way the killer could escape the murder scene. After studying his notes, he found that there was a sewer opening just feet away at both of the murder scenes.

He theorized that the killer must have used the sewer to get away. The next step was to check out the sewer system, but he wasn’t going to do that alone. People got lost in New York’s historic underground tunnels.

He needed his partner and a guide.

Back at the station house he spotted Detective Jimmy Jones, who was recently put on the case with him.

“Jimmy! I need to find someone who knows the tunnels and would be willing to serve as a guide for us.”

“Us?”

“Yeah, I have a theory how the murderer is getting around. I need your help partner.”

“Okay. I do happen to know someone who’ll fit the bill. He’ll do anything for money. He lives on the streets. I’ll get the word out right now.”

Detective Bryce watched him go. He was ten years younger than himself. Still vigorous and ambitious. He was a good man.

The next day.

Detective Jimmy pried open the steel cover and with the help of Louie (their guide) slid it aside. It was after 11:00 o’clock and the side street they picked was quiet. Louie went down first, followed by the two detectives.

They all had flashlights and were waving them around in different directions. The detectives switched their shoes out for boots. Louie wore his usual black high top sneakers.

Detective Bryce pulled a map from his inside jacket pocket. The three of them had already looked it over before going down. Without a word, he picked a direction and Louie led the way.

They went to the sewer opening nearest the last victim. The detectives bent over and studied the ground. Detective Jimmy found the first droplets of blood. Their were dried out, but recognizable on the narrow walkway alongside the sewer floor. More followed. Then abruptly stopped.

Whatever had been dripping must have been covered up, because they lost the trail. They decided to call it a night after taking photos and making notes of where the blood spots were. A forensic team would examine it in the morning.

Four days later.

Detective Bryce was sitting at his desk when the forensic report came back. The blood they saw was the same as the victim’s. There was no doubt about it now. There was a monster loose in the sewer system.

As he considered the report his phone rang. Another victim!

When Detective Bryce got to the scene police had it roped off. The victim was a woman. She was missing her hands and feet. The pools of blood were still sticky and flies were already buzzing around the body.

He looked over a few feet and saw a sewer grate. He was back.

The media had a holiday with the sensational murders. They’d attracted national attention since the second murder. The third poured fuel upon the fires of speculation on who would do such a thing?

The next day, Louie and the detectives went down the grate near the last murder. A very nervous Louie demanded twice his usual fees, and stuck to them like glue. As they came to an intersection of tunnels something flew out of the shadows and scooped a screaming Louie up like a baby and ran off with him!

Both detectives pulled their service revolvers and gave chase. Whatever grabbed Louie must have been incredibly strong! They could hear his cries of terror ahead of them. Then they stopped.

When they finally got to Louie he was missing his hands and feet! His eyes were still open in shock. Detective Bryce stopped and kneeled alongside of him. He was still faintly breathing!

His partner had kept the chase up. There was nothing he could do for Louie, but he could help his partner. Holding the flashlight in front of him he trotted as fast as he could through the foot deep muck. There were two openings ahead. He stopped in between them and listened.

He heard a noise at the same time he was hit from behind, sending him sprawling in the muck. He looked up at the giant pale figure eerily illuminated by his flashlight on the ground. He was bald and had dead white eyes!

The albino horror pulled a hatchet from his rope belt and slowly approached him. Detective Bryce fumbled for his shoulder holster and gun. The thing bent over and brought the hatchet down, lopping his left foot off!

He could hear himself screaming in agony when the shots went off! Detective Jimmy was in a firing stance squeezing off careful shots! Then he fainted.

The giant staggered backward, but managed to stay upright. Detective Jimmy reached down into his partner’s coat and grabbed his pistol.

The thing was howling in pain and anger. Detective Jimmy fired again. This time the giant went down and stayed there.

Later on.

Detective Bryce opened his eyes and looked down at his feet. One was missing, but he was alive. He was in a hospital and his wife was at his side. She leaned over and kissed him when she saw he was awake.

“Jimmy?” he asked.

“He’s outside. I’ll get him for you,” she said.

A minute later Detective Jimmy came in with Chief Fitsimmons.

How are you doing partner?” Jimmy asked.

“Great. I didn’t need that foot anyway. So what was that thing that attacked us?”

An awkward silence.

“It’s body wasn’t there when we sent a team back down to get it,” the chief said. “Try to look at the bright side. You can retire now!”

Detective Bryce looked over at his partner and asked, “So who do you think took the body?

As It Stands, add this tale to the many others about New York’s famous underground.

A Day in the Life Of Others

Shane was a unique child with a secret.

As long as he could remember, he was able to step inside other people’s bodies and minds. As a child he accidentally discovered this power one day when he suddenly found himself in his father’s body, looking out his horn-rimmed glasses!

Because he had an unfettered imagination, the experience didn’t scare him. His curiosity was unquenchable. He didn’t try to understand what happened. He accepted it without reservation, and learned to revel in his take overs.

By the time he reached his teens he was able to control his power. The days of haphazard take overs were gone, replaced with an iron will that only used his power when he wanted to.

His parents, family, and friends never suspected that Shane had such power. In all outward appearances he was a normal kid. Instinctively, he knew not to tell others about his ability to inhabit someone else’s body.

Over a period of years Shane honed his abilities to both inhabit, and control a host body. No amount of book learning could have taught him what he knew about people’s habits, and what really motivated them.

Because Shane had developed a conscience and had a good heart, he didn’t try to exploit his power. By the time he was 19 years-old, he’d cut back to just a couple of take overs a week. The novelty didn’t entirely go away, however.

There was nothing more fascinating than being inside someone’s thoughts and actually controlling them physically. A lesser person probably wouldn’t have been satisfied with just visiting a host. They might have used the host to do bad things.

The incident at the Mall.

One afternoon, as Shane was cruising the mall people watching, something attacked his mind! He felt an evil presence trying to take control of him! The assault was so sudden that he had to sit down on a bench and collect himself.

Summoning up all of his will power he drove the thing from his body. The encounter left him badly shaken and for days afterward he couldn’t get it off his mind.

He came to the conclusion that someone like himself was out there – and they had attacked him. He also came to the conclusion that his attacker was someone totally unlike himself.

Whoever it was, they were hostile and aggressive. An instant enemy. A dark presence.

The next attack came while Shane was having his first cup of coffee for the day. He was sitting in his favorite lounge chair sipping coffee and still chasing away the cobwebs after a restless night, when the attack came!

This time he could see an image in his head. A man who looked exactly like him! His dark eyes were glittering with rage and hate! Shane could feel him tugging at his control, trying to mentally overpower him.

The physic struggle went on for minutes. Once again, summoning up all of his power, Shane drove the angry presence off. This time he felt weak afterward. The confrontation had drained him.

It also made him realize that he could no longer just passively wait for the next attack. He might not win the next encounter.

It came to him that the best thing to do was get proactive and start searching for his silent enemy. He was going to reverse the situation by attacking his enemy first.

He spent hours concentrating on a physic defense to thwart unsuspecting attacks. When he was satisfied with the results he turned his power outward, using it like physic radar.

Old lore has it that we all have a doppelgänger, a twin, somewhere on earth. It’s considered a harbinger of bad news in some cultures. Still other traditions say that your doppelganger is an evil twin.

Shane found his evil twin living just a city away!

When he attacked him he had success, at first. He found out his name was Vince and he was a serial killer with no conscience and a lot of rage. Then he was bumped back hard into his own head!

The die was cast.

What followed was a classic case of good versus evil. The two men fought mental battles daily, each trying to wear the other out. But they were too evenly matched for one to gain ascendancy over the other.

The battle came down to a physical confrontation after two weeks.

The combatants agreed to meet in a park one night and take their fight to a new level. Shane went to the agreed upon meeting place during the day and hid a gun in the roots of a giant ancient Oak.  Just in case.

They agreed not to come armed, but Shane didn’t trust his evil twin. He learned enough to know Vince wouldn’t think twice about cheating on an agreement. He spent the rest of the day meditating and centering his physic forces.

There was a full moon that night. When the two men approached one another the animals in the park went silent. The ground shuddered when they flew at each other like wild beasts!

Vince didn’t bring a gun, but he did bring a hunting knife! It came out within minutes of pounding each other with their fists! He slashed Shane’s arms as he tried to protect himself. He finally broke away and retreated towards the ancient Oak.

Vince followed closely, roaring like a murderous beast in pursuit!

When he reached the tree he turned in time to dodge Vince’s thrust with the knife. The gun lay barely concealed at the twisted base of the tree. Shane ducked under another wild slash and retrieved the gun in one motion.

He didn’t stop shooting until the revolver was empty.

The next day, while treating his knife wounds, intrusive thoughts bothered him. His encounter with his evil twin had left him sullied. No longer could he say he never killed anyone. It felt like a fall from grace.

There was also that new little voice in his head that talked about things that were evil.

As It Stands, I’ve always been fascinated with twins.