I stare at the tacky neon lights that read Club Stroke. It stands out like a beacon in the night, in the sketchiest part of the city, calling for lost souls and perverts far and wide. And while I see it—for fucks sake, I’m staring right at it—I don’t really see it.
My eyes perceive, but they do not focus. They send a message to my brain that says hey, look here, asshole! But my brain, my fucking neurotic brain, could give two shits less as it has its own fuckery to worry about.
I can’t focus.
My thoughts are a jumbled mess like two thousand browsers open all at the same time—there’s no order, only loud, never-ending chaos.
Which ones can I close?
Which ones need to stay open?
Did I turn the stove off before we left?
I don’t know anymore.
I recently started chewing my nails, a new development I acquired over the last few months. Currently sitting in the passenger seat beside DeLoren, I am doing just that. Absentmindedly chewing my nails—such a human thing to do and yet, it gives my fried nerves an outlet.
Too long, I’ve been away from her for too long. And now, like a nightmarish oasis, I am parked right in front of the last stretch of my purposeful absence. I am so close to wrapping this up, I can almost taste it.
“THERON!” DeLoren startles me with his booming voice. I nearly jumped right out of my seat, bitten nails instantly forgotten. It is a dangerous move to suddenly alarm a man whose anxiousness is as trigger happy as mine... only DeLoren is brave enough to venture into that territory.
I snap, shooting him an annoyed glare, “What?!”
His voice returns to a normal timbre, “I’ve been talking to you for the last twenty minutes—have you heard even a single word I’ve said?” A feeling of guilt washes over me, softening my expression, “Sorry.” And I mean it, genuinely. It’s not his fault I can’t focus. I cannot blame him for the extended trip to La La Land I’ve been unwillingly vacationing in.
I’m nervous to see Lina.
I’m terrified of my brother discovering the specific atrocities that are about to be revealed tonight.
I’m tired, as my nightmares have gotten worse, no longer plagued by just Cera alone.
...And I’m anxious about the future.
My body is constantly tense, my mood is always edgy. I need to release these pent-up emotions—finally free my soul, giving me back a part of myself that has felt lost in the darkest recesses of my mind.
Tonight is the night.
DeLoren sighs, running a large hand over his thick beard, “Why did you save this guy for last?”
Purposely ignoring his inquiry, I return to looking, but not really seeing, out the window. I know what was done to me by way of this Superlunar employee was not my fault—I realize that. It was beyond my control. One of those open pages in my head holds that information as it isn’t one I can just hastily and carelessly ctrl, alt, delete away but at the same time, it is difficult to recount the story.
Mostly because I don’t want to.
We have hunted down fifty-three of those who escaped my wrath the night I broke loose and I exacted my revenge on each and every one of them in a marvelously creative fashion of which torturous experiment each one had subjected me to. They were some... innocent bystanders that met their fate along the way as well, but I can’t say I experienced one ounce of regret. They should have kept better company. More blood would have been shed had I not let anyone under eighteen flee, but again, Lina snuck her way into my mind and I just couldn’t do that to children.
That notion is beyond me now. In fact, it makes me downright queasy.
Refocusing on the entry to Club Stroke, the door opens. My target emerges. “You’re about to find out,” I say, nodding towards the abnormally large, retreating form.
“That’s him?” DeLoren raises a brow in disbelief. Believe me, I share his sentiment. John Greenwood is nothing much to look at, probably the core reason why he is the way he is and does the things he does.
I’m guessing he’s in his mid-forties, overweight, and seriously single (I suspect because he can’t decide which sex he is more attracted to). His huge barrel belly sags low over his khakis pants, the button-down shirt he is wearing is wrinkled and stained with today’s lunch the slob somehow managed not to shove inside his fat, grotesque stomach. His light-colored hair is greasy and thinning—combed over to hide genetic baldness, but it conceals nothing. Overactive sweat glands, whether also from genetics or being just plain fat, I don’t know, keep him constantly perspiring. He reeks of body odor and less than effective washing habits. His tiny eyes, nose, and lips get lost within the blubber of his face that appears to be melting into his multiple chins. He waddles down the sidewalk and honestly, I expected nothing less from a human of such stature.
Let me be clear, John Greenwood was not a scientist—he was a technician, a lowly assistant to those who worked hard to obtain a degree in the sciences. He was trained in how to do his job and left to his own devices, expected to do such tasks and do it professionally... The problem with John was that he took too much pleasure in the job he was assigned. Not that I would have been forgiving under any other intent, but his was the worst kind.
“When you told me he was a perverted fuck, I never imagined you meant the spitting image of the literal definition,” DeLoren mumbles and I totally get it. If one were to gaze upon John and automatically think, damn, he looks like he’d be a sick son of a bitch, I would not fault them in their judgment. He honestly appears like his picture should grace the page of that very definition inside Webster’s dictionary.
And he is my biggest indignity.
He is the one demon I have avoided facing all these years because honestly, I do not want to relive it. I desperately want to kick it underneath a metaphorical rock and leave it to wither and die, cold, alone, and forgotten. Call me a pussy, tell me to sack up, judge me for being a man and not able to take control of the situation, but only those who have been traumatized in such a way will understand: I had no say so... no free will. I was given no choice. I was bound and restrained and forced to endure every unwanted touch and stroke and jerk John’s pudgy little hands desired.
Yes, I was an experimental rat in a lab and yes, one would expect such evil scientists to want to retrieve all my bodily liquids in the name of “knowledge,” but what I could not handle, what brought the guilt, the shame, and the embarrassment to weigh heavily upon me making it increasingly harder to breathe day in and day out was the way in which my seminal fluids were extracted.
So yeah, I saved John Greenwood as my last kill. DeLoren expected it was because I had something “special” planned for his torture but the truth of the matter was much darker and my brother had no clue the real reason why I did not take care of this particular employee sooner: I was too afraid.
Neither I nor DeLoren were very surprised to find out John lives an actual three blocks away from the sex club he sauntered out of. I’m sure his perversion came long before the need for shelter so when this gem of a location opened up, he more than likely paid six months’ worth of rent at one time.
So when we knocked upon his door, I knew it would not be difficult to obtain an invitation inside. We are two young, strong, good-looking men, after all—a walking, talking, wet dream for John, I do not doubt.
Being a good host, John hands us both a beer as DeLoren collapses into the ratty couch, comfortably chill with arms outstretched on the headrest. I, on the other hand, refuse to touch anything in this pervert’s loft, afraid of what is more than likely lurking plainly upon each surface of every item.
“So, boys,” John chimes as he adjusts the crotch of his pants and licks his repulsive, sweaty lips, “what can I do you for tonight?”
The double entendre does not escape my notice.
DeLoren, however, has absolutely no clue, “Just need to use your phone, if you don’t mind—our car died.” If it wasn’t for the fact that I was a basket case of nerves, I would chuckle at my brother’s obliviousness... so calm, cool, and collected sitting on the nasty couch of a sexual predator.
“Of course,” a grinning John replies, “but it will cost you.”
The startled look upon DeLoren’s face is almost priceless.
Bewildered, he glances from John to me and then back to John once more when I don’t grant him any clarity.
“What do you mean? You need a quarter or something?” We all know that’s a ridiculous question, the probability of locating a pay phone anywhere in the United States is a tough feat. You’d have better luck spotting a leopard-printed unicorn in a tutu... I see now where DeLoren’s confusion lies.
“So innocent,” John chuckles, a disgusting moan escapes from his disgusting mouth, “I like that.”
I can literally witness the lightbulb pop on inside DeLoren’s head. His face contorts from puzzlement to pure repulsion. He shoots off the couch, in a ball of fury, “Dude! What the fuck?!”
John frowns at DeLoren’s rejection, sensing a blatant change in the atmosphere of the room, “Shame.” His beady little eyes then direct their attention to me, as his gaze slowly rakes over me from top to bottom and back up again, “What about you? I do love those innocent-looking ones the most...”
I clench my jaws, refusing to let my beast out to play just yet. I expected this kind of banter from him as he and I had met more than once before. I was well aware of his vulgar attempts for a rise.
I only stare on.
“You want to explain this shit, Theron?” The crazed look in DeLoren’s eyes lets me know that he is quite close to his breaking point. He does not like the feeling of confusion. He hates, even more, to be lied to which is exactly what he is silently accusing me of. But I didn’t lie. I never lie. I just didn’t tell him the details behind this particular hit... technically, not a lie.
“Theron?” John gasps in awe and wonderment, his evil grin spreads from fat cheek to fat cheek. “They told me you would find me... torture me, kill me. But I never believed! Even when the other bodies... no...” he shakes his meaty head in perplexity.
“Well, believe it you nasty piece of shit,” DeLoren spits.
I remain silent. Standing firm in my resolve, I will not allow his taunting to affect me.
“You know, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember which beast you were at first,” John feigned sadness, “I mean, I serviced so many...”
DeLoren’s chest starts to rise and fall, his hands clench and unclench into tight fists. If that wasn’t an obvious enough sign of his barely-there restraint, the hardness to his eyes and the flare of his nostrils would confirm such.
Still, I do nothing.
The anxiety now keeps me rooted in place. I have been playing this scenario inside my head for years and yet now that I am actually living it, my mind is blank. My soul yearns for this confrontation, assuming it will be the last stitch to piece me back together. However, my soul and I are both realizing that it’s going to take more than the death of this despicable human being to mend my broken self.
John continues, “But then, I start to recall one lycan in particular... and just like that, it came to me! I was rather disappointed in myself for not recognizing who you were sooner—you do have an abnormally large cock for your kind. Imagine my surprise, after you shot your first load, to realize you had been saving so much! God, the amount was unbelievable! What animal would refuse himself release for that long?!”
Now it begins... I feel my top lip start to curl, a snarl instinctively threatening to escape its confines. I am a beast. I am a slave to my savagery. And my anger is too close to the surface.
I can see DeLoren begin to shift from the corner of my eye but my stare remains on the filth in front of me. I know he is not done yet, there is more he wants to say and I will let him because I need to come to terms with what happened. I need to force myself to hear every nasty thing that comes from the mouth of this horrible man as it is the only way I can accept and move on. I was aware before we came here that this would not be pleasant.
I am not disappointed.
And John rambles on, a new resolve setting in...
“I will not be tortured for your amusement, animal! You won’t hear me cry and beg for an end to the pain you intend to give me. When this is over, and I have said my piece, my death will be quick,” he states confidently, nose turned upwards.
“What makes you so certain of that, John?” I sneer, finally finding my voice. If he thinks for one second that he will be granted the glory of a quick and painless death, he is poorly mistaken. My disgust for him knows no bounds and the rage inside me is being kept at bay purely by will alone. Once I unleash, and I will unleash, there is no God above or below that can answer the pleas of mercy John will attempt with a pleasing gurgle from his blood-filled throat.
He grins, “Because we both know when your anger consumes you, nothing matters to you but instant death.”
“And you think you can bring that out of me? I’d like to see you try,” I laugh, madly.
“Can you imagine... a tiny, seemingly insignificant, blonde she-wolf becoming the one and only weakness of the most formidable beast on the planet?”
Instant fear grips my insides like a vice, a knife straight to my gut and my mind is having a hard time processing the implications of what was just said.
They know about Lina?
I let out a low warning growl—he needs to shut his mouth. I am not in the mood to contemplate the bullshit he is feeding me.
“Ah, I see you know of who I speak,” he nodded happily. “I must say, what a fuckable piece she has grown up to be, don’t you think?” His face instantly drops, fake sadness lacing his words, “Oh, wait, no you probably don’t, because you haven’t seen her in over fifteen years.”
“Shut the fuck up!” I snarl, barely keeping control of my beastly side—I am about to erupt. I feel my skin heat and vibrate, my muscles spasm as I bite back my fury.
But John doesn’t get it.
He doesn’t stop.
“You know, he has found her. The hunter.” He smiles maniacally at me, “I wonder what will happen once he gets his hands on her?” His voice lowers to a heated whisper, “Do you think she will scream his name once he pulverizes that sweet, delicious cherry—”
The chains of restraint finally snap, and I am done. Claws unsheathed, I plunge my hand clear through his chest cavity. I need no spare moment to feel for my target as I have done this plenty of times. So before another vulgar word can slip from his disgusting mouth, I rip the beating muscle out, attached veins and arteries instantly severed and spraying not only me and him but DeLoren who has also decided to silence John’s voice.
Seems I was not the only one who lost their shit over Lina because, at the same time I was punching through John’s chest, DeLoren was ripping his head clean from his spinal cord.
He drops John’s ugly face on the unclean floor, callously.
Drenched in blood, panting, and seething with anger and disgust, we make eye contact. No words need to be spoken as we both know exactly where we are headed next. Lina should be prepared because we have no intention of announcing our arrival.
DeLoren kicks the bodiless head across the room. The force pings the dismembered part off the refrigerator, collapsing the skull upon impact.
I may not have delivered that kick, but it felt just as satisfying to me, personally.
A shrill ring pierces the tension in the room. It takes me half a second to realize my cellphone is the cause of the interruption to our little soireé. No one ever calls me so I have no recognition of the ring tone. Honestly, this is the first time I have ever heard it.
I don’t even check the caller ID after I pull it from my pocket. If it happens to be some foreign douche assuring me my car warranty is null and void, I will hunt him down and shred him into pieces so small, dental records will not help his family identify him.
“What?” I bark. I don’t have the time nor the patience for such petty bullshit right now. I need to get back to Lina.
“We have a big, big problem,” Kai’s voice resounds from the other side.
My heart jumps as the realization of the seriousness of this situation comes full frontal and John’s taunting words instantly echo through my panicked brain, “You know, he has found her. The hunter.”
I don’t speak. I only tossed the phone to DeLoren—he can handle it. I don’t even take the time to see if he caught it or not.
Sprinting out of the building, I shift in midair, not caring about the ripping of my clothes, forgetting the vehicle parked outside we are about to abandon, leaving the bloody mess of John’s remains for the police to find, and not giving one single fuck if my brother is following me or not.
I have tunnel vision and nothing else matters.
I have to get to Lina.