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Chapter 4

Four blocks down and four to go.

Those two gents are exactly what’s wrong with the valley. They’re career criminals; an acceptable way of life in these streets. It was a tough situation for me to be in. I didn’t have a reason to flat out kill those two, granted it had crossed my mind, but I don’t do the cold-blood-murder-thing. If I had “detained” them, I would’ve still had to press charges, make statements, and answer questions. Considering I’m the one that assaulted Tim, proving my side of the story would be a tall order.

Talking to the police wouldn’t be an ideal scenario for me. They aren’t very fond of me at HVPD, we’ve had a few run-ins before and the fact I’m not in jail was some sort of miracle.  They considered me a nuisance and thought I was in the way of real police work; I think they’re delusional.

I really wanted my message to be well received by those two evil-doers. I really didn’t want to see them again. Promises from me are like Bruce Willis in a M. Night Shyamalan movie…Unbreakable. If they didn’t like the taser they sure as hell wouldn’t like what my left arm would’ve brought to the party.

The last leg of my journey went as smooth as the first half should have gone. The closer I came to my destination the number of people grew. Groups of friends headed into the early night laughing, eagerly awaiting for what the night held for them. Nothing in their life would compare to an adventure in the Neon district.  They were all looking for a good time, in a very bad place.

Entering the first block of the district was like stepping into a trashy amusement park. The neon signs hummed with life, calling to the patrons, acting like masked sirens, singing their sweet lullaby, luring the hopeless people, enchanting them to their demise. A blank stare or even a smile would hang on the faces of those lost souls. The lights were glowing from every window and doorway enticing any passerby in; to see what wonders would welcome them. You could find all of your favorite ways to sin and many other ways that you never knew existed. This place is a disease, an incurable cancer, and black as death itself.

I found the store I had been looking for. It was a pawn shop, Last Chance Pawn. Many shops like this occupied this condensed area. There were many customers who came here looking for that last dollar to get that last high. Like most businesses people’s addictions were their gains.

I stopped in front of the entrance, surprised there wasn’t a line around the corner. I pushed the buzzer, looked up to the security camera and gave it a one finger wave. The heavy security door buzzed and popped open. I walked in casually, as because that’s the only way I knew how.

To my left, on the other side of the bullet proof glass, he stood, Eddie Deville–a name fitting enough to call this place home. He was an average man, of average height, and average weight. His eyes are what stood him apart from anyone else, they were unmistakable. They were extremely dark, not black but midnight, and they looked hungry. Eddie thrived where others couldn’t survive. His bland look was merely a facade; he’s a survivor, a predator.

His look was completed with one of his customary silk shirts; this one was a rich burgundy to go with his black slacks. He looked up from counting his money and greeted me with a big toothy smile.

“Mr. Andersen, what brings you to the depths of human turmoil?”

The sound of his voice had always made me uneasy. He wasn’t a big time criminal, but his lack of humanity in conducting his business had always disturbed me. If I wasn’t in a bad mood already, his voice pushed me to the brink.

“First, knock that crazy grin off of your face. Second, you already know the reason why I’m here,” I answered with more of a scowl on my face than intended.

“First, you flip off my camera. Second, you come into my store and try to tell me what to do. Third, why are we counting?”

I had to keep a grin from creeping up on my face. If he knew his antics so easily amused me I would’ve lost any upper hand that I had worked so hard to establish. I needed to focus and remember why I was here. Eddie could be the only person I knew who could help me get the information I needed. If this was an organized hit, I needed to figure out who ordered it and fast. There’s enough senseless violence and killings that kept happening in my town, I’ve made a small dent where I could but if this was indeed a mob hit, I would need all of the help I could get. Right now it was entirely necessary to keep a straight face.

“Well, aren’t you quick tonight; however, I wasn’t flipping the bird. No, I was showing you the I.Q. of your average customer.”

Eddie grinned even wider. “Maybe you see my customers making stupid decisions Wes, but I see them as brave people. They’re willing to sacrifice their antiques and their family heirlooms for a chance, a hope of a better future. I am always ready, waiting to give them the fresh start, a new chance on life that everyone deserves.” As he said the last few words he gave a short bow of his head, something a man of nobility would do.

“I feel like I should be building a gold statue of your likeness right now.”

“No, that won’t be necessary. As always our arrangement is still in order. Please, feel free to look around. I’m sure you will find my prices to be quite…generous.”

“Generous for whom?” I asked.

I stepped away to browse the shop. Two workers were positioned in opposite corners of the room. They were large men; they were as wide as they were tall. They wore black t-shirts with the stores logo on the left breast, matching black slacks, and work boots. The giant in the left corner wore his blonde hair slicked back and he was clean shaven. The mammoth in the right corner was bald, Mr. Clean style, and he had a phenomenal fu-Manchu. I did the best I could to ignore them.

I looked around at all of the various things Eddie had collected through trade, barter, or some other methods that were not of the legal nature. He was as slick as they came and savvy enough to stay under most radars. He was a man who could locate certain things from time to time if need be, but there was always a price. I came through here for the first time ten months ago in search of answers. I needed information and he named the cost. Now if I ever required anything from him, I must first pay his toll.

There were three glass display cases, each roughly twenty feet long and three feet wide. They held the fancy jewelry, guns, swords, smaller trinkets, and any other tiny knick knacks. The walls were decorated in signed memorabilia, posters, paintings, and also held a wide array of guitars. There were acoustic and electric and even some banjos. There was a door at the back wall leading to his warehouse. All of the bigger stuff was stored in there: mountain bikes, Harleys, street bikes, cars, trucks, grandfather clocks and I even remember seeing a suit of armor straight out of the Middle Ages. People sell anything to feed their addictions.

The glass case furthest from Eddie had an item in it that caught my eye. I wouldn’t have expected to find it in a glass case, but there it was a Nintendo 64 game console, with controller. I haven’t had the fortune of playing one of these for many, many years.

I told Eddie of my interest in the console. The giant came over and opened the case, retrieving the item for me.  I gazed upon it with a big, goofy smile and walked over to the counter where I could set it down. The N64 was in surprisingly good condition and even the controller moved smoothly. The buttons weren’t gummed up, a very good sign considering kids would’ve owned these and kids have very sticky fingers. Now it was to the hard part…negotiating the price.

“Alright kind sir who owns this fine establishment. I have intent to purchase this old, useless, and probably broken down video gaming system. What kind of deal can you give me to take this dusty, ugly item off your hands?” I asked with a big cheesy smile plastered on my face.

“Cut the shit Wes; you pay what I ask or you get nothing. You’ll get no information and no game for the grown child,” he said motioning to the console. “I know you might give up the information out of spite but the excitement is practically oozing out of you over that gray box.”

We were face to face by now, well as close as you could be when there was a one inch sheet of bullet proof glass between the two of you. I didn’t know why I was so easily getting upset with him, but I just had a feeling that my night would never get any better. I needed to change topics quick, before one of us pushed the other over the edge. Preferably I wished that we would both settle down and stop baiting each other. The two men behind me were two of the most menacing counter people I had ever seen. I’m coming to the conclusion they weren’t hired for their knowhow in spotting the difference between a real and a fake Rolex. It would be wise of me to try and keep my temper from reaching its boiling point.

“Do you have any refill cartridges for my taser?” I asked.

“Why? You would only need more if you had used it. Did you use the taser you bought from me?”

“Indeed I did,” I said proudly. “In fact I used it right before I arrived here this evening. And might I say it worked phenomenally. I barely had to move. Those two amateurs didn’t know what hit them, well one of them didn’t. The other I think learned a valuable lesson; you’re never too old to change your life around.”

Eddie just stood there shaking his head, letting out a chuckle when he could no longer hold it back.

“You’re a sucker. Your empathy has gotten the best of you once again. Those animals would’ve taken everything from you in a heartbeat. If they could do it all over again they would, but with one difference; they wouldn’t give you a chance to talk. That was the only lesson they learned; they were animals Wes, simple as that.”

I started to feel a little warmer than I had a minute ago, my temper started to reach its point of no return. Changing topics apparently wasn’t working, but I am only a man, and having this creep mock me was something I couldn’t let slide.

“Animals? Funny, I would’ve put you in that category. The way you feast on the weak without a hint of remorse. It’s in your DNA, your instinct. It’s your own process of natural selection. You sit behind that protective wall counting your money, while confused and misguided people fall deeper into the void–lost to the world forever. You help them get closer and closer to the point where they can never return from. All they would need is a kind deed or a simple helping hand to put them on the right path.

“You couldn’t do that though, where would you be without the frail or the helpless little sheep? You may be someone I conduct business with, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re any better than the scum I’m trying to get rid of. One day Eddie, our time will come. Our dealings will be finished and there will be nothing left to do but see who the true survivor is.” I said the last words pressing my forehead to the glass, spitting the syllables with contempt.

Eddie arched a brow and gave a look to one of his goons. They, Eddie and the goon, communed with an exchange of a glance and quickly two guns were produced and pointed at me–one gun from each goon. And both guns were pointed at me. I usually loved it when I was right, but not this time. I knew they didn’t really work the counters. On the bright side I have graduated from knives to guns in a shade under an hour. I paid them no attention, if I didn’t want to switch my nationality from Irish to Swiss, the man in front of me would be the one to convince. Eddie regarded the situation briefly and then replied.

“One should be careful to throw such disrespect around in another man’s house, especially when they are out-manned and out-gunned. I don’t think your little electric shaver will get the best of my men.” 

 

 

 

Chapter 5

I regarded the situation briefly, and then did what I did best. I reacted.

I lifted my left hand and pressed my palm to the glass. The sleeve of my jacket slid down my arm revealing my secret. My entire left arm had been covered in deep sigils and runes that had been pain-stakingly carved into the flesh. Hours upon hours of meditation, power, and blood went into the craftsmanship of my appendage. My mentor, Marcus, had guided me through the process. He said he’d never applied the craft to an actual body part before. He’d always performed the ritual in a more traditional sense, on a staff. A staff was used as a way to harness your power and expel it in an efficient and accurate way. I asked him what if I lost my staff or it was misplaced? What would I have done then? I was devoted to my craft because of the guidance I had received from Marcus. This was my purpose I had always been looking for.  I was in it to win it, and carrying an eight foot long hunk of wood didn’t work for me. I applied the same art and ancient technique of staff carving into my left arm. If I were to ever lose the arm I wouldn’t want it to be my dominant gaming arm, so the lefty it went. I’m always thinking one step ahead.

Eddie had never seen what I was capable of; in fact most of our meetings go down as pleasant as they could. He probably didn’t think much of me considering I bought and used the taser I had purchased here. It’s not considered the manliest weapon I could’ve wielded. I must admit I was a little on edge already from my rumble in the streets. My adrenaline kicked in when I had fired the taser, and it was still in charge of my emotions. I didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize my relationship, if you would call it that, with Eddie. He was valuable to my efforts in cleansing this diseased place. If he wanted me to pay his overpriced costs it was worth. In the end it would be a small cost to the bigger payout.

I let a smirk slide up on my face as I focused on my arm. I sent energy into my extended limb and eased it forward, keeping constant eye contact with Eddie as I did so. My arm slid through the bullet proof protection like bare toes through a sandy beach. It was like the bullet proof glass was only an illusion, and in reality it was nothing more than water. Of course in reality it was glass, but I don’t live in the same world as many other people.

My arm, up to my elbow, was clean through the other side. I didn’t grab or touch Eddie; I gave him a wink and brought my hand back where it belonged—on the other side of the glass with the rest of my body. I was trying to make a point to him; nobody was out of my reach. I put my hands up in the air to make sure goon #1 and goon #2 wouldn’t get trigger happy. Eddie remained calm and stoic as usual, pondering his next words carefully.

“Wes, I must admit that I am not surprised often,” he said, “but that was most interesting.” He looked at his men and raised a brow; they lowered their hand guns and stepped back a couple paces. “The shooting that occurred was not a random act. I can tell you who was behind it, but I know you won’t like it. In fact I was partially hoping I could piss you off enough that you would leave and that would be the end of it. Are you sure you need to know who the puppeteer is?” He asked, but his tone held uneasiness in it. I really think he didn’t want to be the one to tell me.

“I came back to clean up my town, Eddie. I’m not here to sit motionless on the sidelines. I’ve dealt with that feeling of helplessness before, but never again. I have changed and with me this Valley will change too. I need to know who was behind this. I have to know.” I answered him impatiently. If I couldn’t find out who was behind all of this I wouldn’t be able to sleep or do anything until I had found out. Even if I could do nothing about it; the fact of me not knowing who or what was behind the attack would drive me insane. Gizmo would go un-walked and un-loved; I couldn’t be responsible for that…I had to know.

“Though I disagree that our town needs to change; a deal is a deal. Even I think a gentleman should always keep the promises he makes. I believe you know the man pulling the strings–Jace Pirelli.”

My vision left me, and darkness took over. I felt like I had been kicked in the balls by Bigfoot; it hurt like hell and I’m pretty sure I was going to throw up. I threw money at Eddie and grabbed my newly acquired merchandise as I stumbled through the door and back to the street. The district was spinning round and round like a rickety ride at this horror of an amusement park.  If you have never seen the delicious snack known as goldfish being thrown up, I envy you. Orange colored minced up crackers, bathed in the sewer color of my Mt. dew soda splattered to the curb. Not as refreshing as when I first had them. I gathered myself the best I could and hurried down the road, back to the safety and solitude of my home.

 

 

Chapter 6

Jace Pirelli was the catalyst to my world changing experience. He’s played the biggest role in my life, more than Marcus, Harry, or even Gizmo.

When I was young school had always been uninteresting to me. Coming from my background or the little background I had, hindered my ability to be accepted by other students or even the wanting to be accepted. Normally an orphan would go through his/her schooling inside the orphanage. But me, being the super smart person that I am, wanted to be with the “normal” kids. I told myself it would be the only way for me to find normalcy.

I started going in the 7th grade. By the 2nd week of school I realized I had made an inaccurate hypothesis of what would transpire during the course of my schooling. But, I did learn some big words. Going to school away from the orphanage proved to be more stressful than I could have ever imagined.

I was hated by most and ignored by those who remained. I couldn’t go back to the orphanage and tell them I was wrong; I was young, an orphan, but I still had my pride. I told myself I would be able to handle it, that I would eventually win them over.

I developed my game addiction through the shunning process known as junior high and the part of high school I had attended. I would spend my days in the computer lab or under a tree far away from others playing my game boy I had traded for. All it cost me was a year’s worth of homework and my chocolate pudding snack I had in my lunch every day. The kid was spoiled anyway; he didn’t care about the game boy and I didn’t care about my pudding. The extra homework was easy enough. I would just copy my homework and change some of the subtleties to make it a piece of its own. I gave the effort I thought the teacher would’ve expected from that kid.

I was teased, razzed, pushed, mocked, slapped, poked, and constantly the butt of all jokes. The joke that stuck with me for the longest came from the other boys in P.E. class, actually the entire male population at the school. When they headed to the bathroom they would say, ‘I am going to go take a Wes’.

I thought participating in sports would change their opinions of me, but no dice. I was decent at sports, but I was never accepted by the team. They had already made their collective minds up on me and to them I would always be that person. Nothing would change their opinion of me. I did my best to stay out of the way and go through each day pretending I was never there.

It was in the 10th grade when everything changed. It was then I escaped my school and my city.

The day had been shaping up to be pretty standard. I was transitioning myself from the computer lab to my first class after lunch, Biology 101. I was stopped outside of one of the class rooms by a trio of kids in my grade. Jace was in the group, he was the group.

“Look everybody, it’s Wesley. Where do you think you’re going?” Jace asked.

“Just going to my class, the bell is about to ring. You guys should get going too; you don’t want to be tardy.” I replied with a hint of sarcasm. I didn’t care if they were late and neither did they.

“Why are you still here?” Jace asked. “You have zero friends and you know nobody wants you here. Hell, even your own parents didn’t want you.”

The other kids laughed and even exchanged high fives, content in the anguish they caused on their fellow student. It was then when I felt my first trickle of energy. The hairs all over my body stood on end; they were at attention waiting for an order. The boys continued their verbal assault on me; well Jace did but the other kids eagerly listened and waited with anticipation for the next round of high fives and laughter.

“I hope you don’t think you are going to embarrass us again by playing basketball this upcoming season. Just because everyone can be on the team, doesn’t mean everyone should be on the team. You aren’t fit to hand us water bottles, let alone sit on the end of the bench with a uniform on.” Jace barked at me.

Jace was the all-American kid every parent dreamed of. Being captain of every sports team gave him the privilege to get away with anything and everything he wanted to. His parents were from wealthy backgrounds and on top of that his father was the Mayor of our illustrious city. He was tall, smart, and handsome; a walking cliché every teen movie portrayed. Years of the abuse taken by him and the others would drive a lot of kids into insanity or into a deep, dark place where they could never crawl out from. I was able to escape that fate…I was lucky.

“You know, Jace, every time you stop me, you say the same shit. If you don’t have anything new to throw at me you are wasting my time and the time of your lackeys. If you can’t summarize your deposition of my inadequate qualities in a more expediently superior fashion, I will be tardy for class,” I said with as much elegance as I could muster. That was me taking the high road.

Blank stares were glued on the other kid’s faces, but Jace understood what I had said and he didn’t like it one bit. His face contorted in a fit of rage. No one had ever dared to stand up to him in any fashion. He was Jace Pirelli. He was strong, smart, and he was the leader.

I had forced his hand and his hand struck. He punched me above the left eye, close to my temple. I went down to a knee in a reflexively submissive position. The three kids then took their turns kicking me in my ribs and stomping at my back wildly. My brain had been jarred and my sight became blurry. My arms raised themselves of their own volition. In that moment, every time I had been pushed, kicked, teased, or punished for being different came to the surface. My emotions raced with rage, envy, and hatred. I hated these kids, but I envied what they had: Families, friends, and acceptance.

I screamed a war cry worthy of William Wallace and let go of those emotions that had haunted me for so long. I released the energy through my arms and out into the world, bringing stillness to my body; for the first time in my life I was calm. It was over as swiftly as it had begun. There were many students and part of the faculty staring at me by the time I had stood up. I had a cut on my temple and my ribs hurt with every exhausted breath I took. Three bodies lay twenty five yards from where I was standing; their fingers twitched and their legs kicked sporadically. I didn’t know how they got there, but I knew I was the reason. I picked up my back pack and disappeared as fast as I could from everything and everyone I had ever known.

I still don’t know why that was the moment where my magic showed itself. There had been plenty of opportunities over the years where I felt I was at my limit for the abuse I endured. I had to grow up fast and grow up hard from day one. My life had been difficult before but I had never truly been on my own until after that day.

Our lives would forever be entangled since that fateful day. Jace brought out my true potential and he was the one who had paid the cost. His arm had been broken in three places and he had two broken ribs. He never fully recovered emotionally from what had happened and he turned from his promised life, to a life on the wrong side of the law. He built an underground empire of thieves, drugs, and murder. He wasn’t just a gangster; he was crime–everything that it entailed. I knew a face to face meeting between the two of us was inevitable. Every person I have thrown off my streets was in some way connected to his vastly growing kingdom. The question was–where do I go from here?

 

 

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