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The dim light flickered intermittently.
“What the hell is this all about Gates?”
“I just had a dream. In the dream, Syton came back and told me I had to get rid of him, or else I’d die. Just listen to what I’m saying, it’s either me or Allman. He’s trying to kill me.”
“Is he really?” Bridges raised an eyebrow. “Don’t you just want to murder him so you can become the headquarters boss?”
He spoke the truth, though she couldn’t admit that.
“No, I’m saying, he’s overly obsessed with getting kicked out by the Boss. He doesn’t want me to replace him like I did with Syton. That’s why he’s trying to kill me, like he did back then with the security camera issue.”
“And you figured this out all based on a dream? Are you playing with me?”
“No, whether you believe it or not, I heard voices. They told me to do it. They were always there, but then they weren’t a minute later. I don’t know what’s going on, but from what I know, it’s certainly time.” She looked into his eyes and walked closer to him. “Don’t you love me, Bridges? Now, it’s either me or him. Choose.”
“Of course I love you honey, but what do you want me to do about it?”
“You idiot! Bridges, I’m asking you to kill him for me.”
“Baby,” he began, “I know it’s hard to understand, but I don’t do good work for free. How much are you planning to give me?”
“When he’s dead, I’ll be your boss. I’ll pay you double…no, triple your current salary. That should be enough to satisfy you. Think about it – three times what you get now. What could you do with all that money?”
“Honey, make it four. Then I’ll do it.”
She frowned. “Three’s the maximum.”
“Then I’m afraid I can’t do it.”
“Look, it’s either one or three. Which would you prefer?”
“But it’s a big risk, you know? I might get caught.” His voice was dripping with sarcasm.
She groaned. “Alright, I’ll make it four.”
“Yeah, that’s more like it babe. How about tomorrow night? After I find some way to get past security, I’ll crawl into his room and shoot him with his own gun.”
“No, you can’t do that. He keeps his gun in his jacket all the time, even when he’s sleeping. Why don’t you use your own gun?”
“You science guys still have a lot to learn about hitmanship. The bullets of each gun are unique, so each kill can be identified and the killer rewarded. But in this case, it would be rewarded with torture and execution, I suppose. I could stab him, then put the knife in his hand – that would be the easiest way.”
“But then they’d question why he didn’t just use his gun. It seems overcomplicated.”
“Hey, gimme a day to think of something sensible, okay? I’m the Bringer of Death, I know how to deal with these things.”
“You? They only call the Captain the ‘Bringer of Death’…wait, you’re the Hitman Captain now? You never told me that.”
Suddenly, his face went pale.
“What?” She asked. “What’s the matter?”
He looked at her again, then his natural face returned – the slightly sardonic smile.
“Yeah, I am. Captain Bridges. Death Bringer. Does that make me hotter or creepier?”
“Mm…both. But I like it. I always thought you were just a normal contract killer. You never told me. Looks like I underestimated you.” The Captain of the Hitmen was third in line to headquarters boss, after head researcher.
“That’s good babe. So do you trust me with this?”
“Yeah, but you need to be careful.”
“Ah, security’s a piece of cake. There’s no way they can catch a contract killer.” He looked into her eyes and touched her face. “How do I know you trust me?”
“What do you mean? I can kiss you again if you like.”
“No, no. Although that would be nice.” He looked at her bracelet. It was thin and silver, and had a pink flower on it. “Do you wear that bracelet often?” He asked.
“I always wear it everywhere, along with my watch.”
“Then if you trust me, give it to me.”
She looked at him strangely. “Why are you asking me for…?”
“Because only that way, I know I can trust you.”
She took it off and gave it to him. He put it in his pocket and ran a finger down the scar on her cheek, then he kissed her.
“And also,” he continued, “one more thing. I need the head of your next subject.”
“And why is that?”
“Let’s just say…I don’t exactly want him screaming my name out loud before he dies. And in case someone sees me.”
“I don’t know where you’re going with that, but fine. Whatever you want. I’m killing off one tomorrow morning, and I’ll deliver it to you before noon.”
“Be careful Bridges,” she whispered.
“You too babe.”
Allman sat in his cubicle and yawned. ‘02:34’, read his digital clock. It was time for a nap, although he knew it wouldn’t be long before it was time to get to work again – there were too many damn things he needed to do. Being the headquarters boss took effort. He wished he was the real Boss, who didn’t have to do shit, who could watch the dollars pouring in every second. He chucked his cigarette in the bin and lifted himself off his chair.
He flicked the lights off and headed down the hallway to his room, in SB41. Once he’d locked the door, he sat comfortably on his bed and switched on his night-light, lighting another cigarette. He turned on the television and browsed through the early morning programmes; there weren’t many interesting ones, so he turned to the news channel.
He heard a sharp ‘bump’ behind him. He saw nothing when he turned around, so he dismissed it. Nowhere could be safer than in his own bedroom, where the security camera sitting on his shelf watched everything that happened. Some would say that it’s unnerving to feel watched when you’re sleeping, but if anything, it made him feel safer.
Still, the noise irritated him, as his room was usually completely silent, and he liked it that way. Had something fallen? He shifted towards the other side of his bed, but stopped when he heard quiet shuffling, coming from the wardrobe. That was unusual. He leaned over the lamp to open the door.
Suddenly, a hand emerged from the wardrobe. He jumped back, however before he could get away, someone wearing a grey sweater grabbed him by the neck then covered his mouth. His muffled screams stopped when he looked upon the face of this ominous being – no, it wasn’t human at all. He’d never seen anything like it before, and he was so horrified he couldn’t make a sound.
Some creature of the night had found him. It had two bulging eyes which protruded from two bloody sockets. They were covered with veins and grew unevenly on its face, the left eye too low, almost on its cheek, and the right too high, sitting on its forehead. Its nose was crooked and too close to its lips, which seemed fleshy and raw. Its mouth was permanently open, revealing a set of human-like teeth, aligned in an unnaturally crooked way. There was blood on its teeth, and in its left hand was a giant blade.
The dim yellow night-light cast disturbing shadows across its face. Where was security? Nobody was coming to save him from it. The man, no, the creature grabbed his hair and threw him onto the floor face-first. It swung its hatchet into his head multiple times, then split open his torso. The last thing he felt was the sharp edge begin to rip through his stomach. The blade cut through his bone. Brains, blood and intestines began to spill out of him then onto the floor.
Although his heart had stopped beating, the fear he had experienced in his last moments was forever imprinted into his dead eyes.
The ‘creature’ dropped the hatchet and stayed in the room for a few minutes. Then it escaped down the empty hallway.
An alarm sounded, and voices could be heard shouting in the hallway.
“The headquarters boss is dead! Allman’s been attacked! Quick, someone get help!”
Gates yawned and opened her eyes. As soon as she heard it, she snapped back into consciousness and dressed herself, dabbing on her red lipstick and pulling her shiny blonde hair into a tight bun. She didn’t bother to brush her teeth. A giant smile spread across her face. It was absolutely brilliant – her plan had worked, and Allman was now dead. Everything belonged to her: the whole headquarters, the money, even the posh bedroom was now hers. This was what she’d imagined, when she first joined the ISS as a low-grade employee. Ah, Yvonne Gates, the headquarters boss. If she continued at this rate, she’d soon end up the real Boss if he died sometime, but she decided she wasn’t going to rush this one. She would take it easy with him.
This was all thanks to Max Bridges. He was the man who had made all her dreams come true. She really couldn’t thank him enough, but the pay rise just wasn’t going to happen. She was his boss now – her life started again here, and anything she said before wouldn’t count. Furthermore, if he resisted, she could fire him with a snap of her fingers. He still hadn’t signed the contract.
She ran as best as she could in her high heels down the crowded corridor to room SB41 where hoards of people gathered. Making her way to the front of the crowd, she peered in through the open door. Her smile faded, and her heart started racing. All she could see was blood and guts, and a huge hatchet had been left at the murder scene. Wait…that wasn’t how it was meant to be. The murder was meant to be dressed like a suicide somehow – but it wasn’t at all. Bridges had said he would’ve devised some sort of plan, perhaps to get hold of Allman’s bullets somehow, but a hatchet?
She needed to talk to Bridges desperately, and ask him what was going on. This wasn’t what they had planned at all. She ran back down the hallway and dialled his number on her private cell.
“Hey there. This is Max Bridges at your service. I’m busy right now but you can leave a message-“
She cursed, hanging up. This wasn’t the time. Something was wrong.
Suddenly, two security guards grabbed her by the arms. What the hell was this? Were they worried for her safety?
“Where are you taking me?” She demanded. They ignored her and dragged her further down the hallway.
“Let go of me! What do you think you’re doing?”
“The Boss himself has arrived at the murder scene. He ordered us to do this,” they replied.
“The Boss? Why me? W-where are you taking me?” she repeated.
“The execution chamber.”
Bringer of Death
She arrived in the chamber, greeted by a set of stony faces. Every member of the headquarters branch was gathered here. They stood organized in rank order and as the Boss entered the room, they bowed in unison. Gates, too, was pushed onto her knees before she could speak. She lifted her head and searched the chamber. Nurses…scientists…hitmen! Bridges knelt at the front, and she recognised him even though he was wearing a suit. She tried to catch his gaze, but he continued to look at the floor.
“We are here to witness,” began the Boss, “the first death sentencing of an ISS offender. In our organisation, we do not tolerate any misconduct. The murder of a superior is punishable by torture and execution. Yvonne Gates, do you confess to the offence you have committed?”
“What? I didn’t do anything!” She screamed. “Let me go! Boss, it wasn’t me! I didn’t murder him!”
“We found this alongside the body.” A guard held up a thin, silver bracelet. The pink flower on it was covered with dry blood. It was broken, making it appear as if it had been dropped by mistake. “Everyone who knows Yvonne Gates has verified that this item belongs to her. I don’t understand what you were planning, Gates. Didn’t you consider the way you conducted that murder was a little…obvious?”
She panicked. Bridges had taken her ‘trust’ and deliberately betrayed it. She couldn’t believe it, but now she knew, all the pieces seemed to fit together perfectly. Why had he chosen to use a hatchet? To blatantly show it was a murder. Furthermore, why had he done that? So he could frame her of doing it.
And why had he wanted to frame her? A sudden realization came upon her. Head Researcher was always second in line to Headquarters boss. The Captain of the Hitmen was third. That’s why he’d broken a sweat when he’d accidentally mentioned it, but she was too dazed to realize anything suspicious. By framing her for killing Allman, Max Bridges had killed two birds with one stone. Now, he was going to become the Headquarters boss. In fact, he had it planned out meticulously carefully from the beginning, as he’d seen his chance coming when she’d first asked him about Allman’s behaviour – he had always been ten steps ahead of her. She thought she’d been using him to get what she wanted for herself, but it turned out that all this time, he had been using her.
He had given her a chance. That time where he let his tongue slip – when he accidentally mentioned that he was the Captain of the Hitmen. He had never told her that; she always thought he was an ordinary contract killer employee until then, and for a good reason too. It was the only clue which could’ve led her to deduce that it wasn’t as simple as it seemed, and more people were against her than she first thought. But she had completely failed to notice it, and she would pay the ultimate price for that mistake - her life.
“IT WAS MAX BRIDGES!” She shrieked. “He set me up! He took my bracelet and put it there! He killed Allman! It wasn’t me, IT WASN’T ME!”
“Boss, I did no such thing.” Max Bridges stood up. “I had known Yvonne Gates for some time before this happened, but I had no idea she was going to do something like that. Though, there was clearly some sort of tension between her and boss Allman, so I can understand why it happened. I was a close acquaintance of Gates, therefore I can also understand to some extent why she wanted to frame me. But I deny having anything to do with Allman’s murder. It is a disgrace to the organisation of the International Secret Service. Greed pays, doesn’t it, Gates?”
“Now as it stands, you will be the next headquarters boss when Gates has been executed, because you are the organiser of the contract killing system at the ISS headquarters, is that right?”
“Yes. That could have been another reason Gates wished to accuse me of the murder.”
He lifted his head and looked straight at her, the corners of his lips curving into a threatening smile.
She could never talk them out of it. His words were too smooth, too cunning. She wanted to burn him, to leave him in the pits of hell to die in the worst way imaginable. She hated him even more than Allman. But there was nothing she could do. She should’ve been smarter, and gotten away from him while she still had the chance. After all, he was the Bringer of Death, and she should’ve expected no less.
She was silent, unable to make a comeback. The Boss waved his hands, and the guards carried her further into the experiment chamber, which was now about to become the room in which she would die. She saw herself being carried towards the Angel’s Wings, and she screamed and flailed.
“Now, let this be a lesson to you all,” said the Boss. “The ‘justice’ system in the ISS is much more efficient. We don’t wait decades for a confession. Once the evidence has been collected, the accused is sentenced to death. Gates, prepare yourself well. As you should know, the ‘Angel’s Wings’ are a torture device invented by your own mentor and previous head researcher, Harvey Jack Syton. It is one of the slowest, most painful ways to die on the planet.”
She was going to die in the Angel’s Wings. It was the real thing now. It was no dream, this was reality.
“Had you been a legendary genius like Syton,” he continued, “we would’ve considered keeping you alive a while longer. But you are only a temporary replacement, so don’t think too highly of yourself, Gates.”
They strapped her into the machine, as the crowd watched in silence. Jackson pushed the button, and the iron nails dug into her flesh. It had been more painful than she’d expected. Jackson remembered how, nearly a year ago, they had been investigating reports for Syton side-by-side. But he’d never expected that he would ultimately be the one to end her, with Syton’s own invention.
He shook his head then sighed, pulling the lever. The screaming started.
Why hadn’t the security camera in Allman’s room caught a thing? Jackson had been watching it on the very night he died, but all he saw was an empty room. Replaying the tape again, he saw the same thing, and just assumed that he hadn’t been having much luck with the cameras recently. He had thought Allman was working a night shift in his cubicle, so there was nobody in SB41 that whole night. He told himself to be careful in the future – if he missed something important one day, he could be executed.
He removed the tape from the computer. That’s when he noticed the security code was wrong, and it was missing one digit. It was a fake - the camera had been replaced and the contents of the tape edited. That was the reason why it caught nothing, allowing Allman to be killed. He told himself to be more careful in the future as he had already signed the contract for life – if he missed something important one day, he could be executed. Of course, swapping the camera was a smart idea – it seemed like Yvonne Gates had been thinking ahead, being the clever woman she was. But – a hatchet? There was something wrong with that; she would never make it so obvious, as the Boss had mentioned before.
Jackson sat in his cubicle with his head in his hands. Max Bridges had recently been appointed new boss of the headquarters, but he couldn’t help thinking there had been something fishy with his new promotion. He remembered Gates screaming his name in agony as she died, as if she wanted to use her last moments to keep accusing him of it. As of now, there was nobody with the title ‘head researcher’ and it made him glad, for he knew anyone with that title would eventually drive themselves insane.
Opposite his cubicle was Max Bridges’ room. He spotted something odd inside a large grey box, which had its lid half-open. He tried to dismiss it as nothing, but he couldn’t help thinking it looked something like human hair. Nobody was around so he quietly entered the room, approaching the box slowly. He’d seen this box in the room a few days ago, but Bridges always kept it locked. It seemed like he’d forgotten to do that this time.
He lifted the metal lid off the box. A foul stench made him cough, and he held his breath. When he looked down and saw what was inside it, he held in a silent scream. A severed human head, with its eyes gouged out, nose, lips and teeth removed. Skin had been scraped off its neck, leaving it flesh-coloured. He recognised the bristly brown hair; it was the head of the last test subject. There was something else in the box too. He moved the head aside, and saw a white piece of plastic, shaped like a triangle, with a string joining one end to another loosely like that of a mask.
He lifted it out of the box and turned it over. Suddenly, he was overcome with a feeling of nausea. Human skin was glued to the other side of the plastic in patches. The missing eyes from the severed head were glued onto the skin, but asymmetrically. The nose was glued in the middle, and the lips were also glued on, along with the teeth. He noticed two tiny holes, one just above the left eye, which had been glued on very low down, and the other just below the right eye, which had been glued too high. It was a mask.
An absurd creation. He’d known some strange people during his time working for the ISS, but never with a fetish as creepy as that of Bridges. It seemed he enjoyed making artwork from bits of dead bodies.
Looking around to check if anyone was there, he swallowed in disgust. Just as he was about to place the mask back into the box, something large and black caught his eye. A security camera. Why was that in here? He lifted it out of the box and pressed the ‘ON’ button – it loaded, meaning it still had battery left. He saw the room label in the bottom right-hand corner – it was SB41! He had found the original security camera of Allman’s room, which had been removed by the killer! But why was it in Bridges’ room?
Wiping the dust and dry blood off the tiny display screen, he went to the menu and clicked on the last video on the list. The time showed 02:13:34, when it had started filming automatically. His midnight break was from 2 A.M. to 2:30 A.M. when Allman would usually go to bed, so he wouldn’t have been watching it then. He skipped the tape to 02:14:09 when he saw the first signs of movement – a suspicious looking man entered Allman’s room. It was the body of a man, definitely not a woman’s figure. The man wore a grey sweater and had his back to the camera; it looked like he was searching for something.
A second later, he turned towards the screen, and Jackson nearly dropped the camera in shock. The man’s face seemed inhuman and mutilated, his features twisted and grotesque. The man saw the camera, then quickly advanced towards it. He realised that it wasn’t the man’s face – he was wearing a mask, the same as the mask in the box. The man saw the camera and rushed towards it in the space of around three seconds, and the tape ended in static when his face was closest against the camera. He had detached the camera, causing Allman to be murdered later.
The mask the man was wearing in the video was the same as the mask in the box. It must’ve been Max Bridges who had detached the camera – and murdered Allman. At least, if he hadn’t committed the actual murder, then he had something to do with it. This box contained all the evidence that was needed to link him to the murder, and he must’ve gathered it here, planning to take it out when nobody was looking and possibly burning it.
“Ah, Jackson,” said a voice behind him. He dropped the camera back into the box and turned around, his heart in his mouth. Bridges walked towards him and closed the door.
“Having fun looking through that pile of old rubbish?”
“I apologise for entering your room without permission, boss.”
“Fair enough. I understand.” Bridges smiled down at him, his eyes narrowing.
“But this box is full of evidence which says that you had a part to play in Allman’s murder. It wasn’t just Gates.” Jackson took a second to cough. “I’ll inform you, Max Bridges, that if the Boss sees this evidence, it would be enough to convict you of murder.”
As soon as it came out of his mouth, he regretted saying it. Now Bridges knew he'd seen the security footage. He wished he could take it back, but it was too late.
“And I’ll inform you, Jackson, that the execution chamber is right behind you.”
Written by Rinskuro13
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