October 9th 1982
Earlier that night...in the town of South Ridge, a large town south of Woody Hills Park, Rusty Collins rummaged through his dresser drawers, searching endlessly for the map—the map he'd used for his secret visits to Grimdamun Cave. But it was nowhere in sight. He could’ve sworn he put it in the top draw, next to his pens and notebooks, but it wasn’t there.
“Any luck?” asked the short, stocky man standing behind him. It was Jimmy Greck, his partner in crime. “It has to be in here somewhere.”
Rusty turned around, and stared down at him. “Nope. It’s gone. I’ve looked everywhere for the damn thing!” He clenched his fists.
“What are we gonna do now?” Jimmy asked, an uneasy look on his face.
“I don’t know.” Rusty sighed and shook his head, tapping his fingers on the dresser. “Do you remember how to get to that stinking cave?”
“Are you kidding me?” Jimmy barked out a nervous laugh. “It’s hard enough finding that cave even with the darn map. How do you expect me to find it without it? Not to mention it’s always dark when we go there.”
Rusty slammed his fist on the dresser. “I don’t know what could’ve happened to it. I think I’m losing my mind.”
Jimmy snapped his fingers. “Wait a minute! Wasn’t your nephew Butch here last weekend?”
“Yeah, he was here last Friday. He spent the night.” Rusty's eyes widened. “Wait a second...you think he took—”
“I’m not accusing him of anything,” Jimmy interrupted, “but that kid’s pretty wild. I wouldn't put anything past him.”
“That little punk probably heard me talking about the job!” The veins in Rusty’s neck began to throb. “I left him alone for a few hours that night. He probably snuck in here and took it!” He slammed the drawer shut. “I’ll ring his neck if he did!”
“Calm down,” said Jimmy scratching his head. “It ain’t the end of the world.”
“Calm down?” Rusty narrowed his eyes. “Do you realize the kind of trouble we’re in if we don’t get that money to The Axe?”
Rusty and Jimmy were members of the Dillison Gang, a small time group of burglars who, in recent days, had expanded their operation. They were taking on bigger jobs now for sophisticated crime lords. And this latest job was given to them by The Axe himself, the most powerful crime lord in all of Chester County. No one dared cross The Axe.
“This is The Axe we’re talking about,” continued Rusty, a troubled look in his eyes. “We’re as good as dead if we don’t hand him the money!”
“Then maybe we shouldn’t have ran,” said Jimmy, shrugging his shoulders. “We should’ve stayed and fought that old crow...and snatched the damn briefcase from his hand.”
Rusty narrowed his eyes. “You’re joking, right?” He started to chuckle. “You were more scared than I was! Not that I blame you of course. I’m still having nightmares about that wacky old geezer.”
“Alright, I admit it. I was scared...scared to death, actually.” Jimmy took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “The guy creeps me out, Rusty. I don't want to go back there.”
“We have to!” Rusty growled. “We have no choice.”
“Do you really want to go back there?” Jimmy gave him a quizzical glance. “You saw what he’s capable of...and those dogs of his, or whatever they are...and that monst—”
“I don’t want to talk about it!” Rusty cut him off. “We have to go back there...but during the day, when the old kook and his pets are sleeping.”
Jimmy looked doubtful. “How do you know they'll be sleeping?”
Rusty paused, then gave him a sidelong glance. “I have my resources.”
“Oh really?” Jimmy raised an eyebrow. “Even if that’s true, and we could sneak into the cave unnoticed, what good is it if the briefcase isn’t even there? You really think he’d leave it laying around, stuffed with all that money?”
“It’ll be there, trust me.” Rusty’s tone was confident. “The old man lives there. Where else would it be?”
“Look,” said Jimmy, “why don’t you just get on the phone and call The Axe? Tell him the old man refused to pay us because we didn’t have all twelve of those stupid daggers. It ain’t our fault.”
Rusty glared at him, frustrated. “How many times do I have to tell you that I can’t call him? I’ve never even met the guy. I’ve been dealing with one of his emissaries.”
It was true, The Axe was a very secretive crime lord who'd only meet in person with very few people; he certainly wouldn’t meet with a small time member of the Dillison Gang like Rusty Collins.
“And besides,” Rusty went on, “I’m sure The Axe ain’t interested in excuses.” He threw his arms in the air. “How am I supposed to explain to his messenger that we ran away from an old man? We’re supposed to be tough guys, remember?”
“I still don’t get why that old creep’s so obsessed with these daggers anyway,” said Jimmy. “I know they have some nice jewels attached to them, but other than that, I don’t see what the big deal is. Seems like a lot of money he’s willing to pay for them if you ask me.”
Rusty shrugged his shoulders. “To each is own I guess. I really don’t care one way or the other. All I care about is the money. We earned it, and we’re going back there to get it.”
“Yeah, you earned it alright,” Jimmy said, with a smirk. He pointed at the dark ring around Rusty’s eye. “That’s quite a shiner you’ve got there, partner.”
Rusty glowered at him. “Well, you and the other idiots weren’t much help. You let that costumed fool slip right past you.” He placed his hand over his right eye, embarrassed. “So he snuck up on me and gave me a cheap shot—big deal.” His ego was crushed. “He’s lucky the cops showed up or I would’ve finished him off.”
“Sure you would've,” Jimmy sneered.
“Whatever you say, Jimmy. It’s your fault for not stopping him. And now he’s got the other four daggers.”
“What was I supposed to do? He knocked out three of our guys before anyone knew he was there. I tried to stop him, but the guy's a lunatic.” Jimmy threw his arms in the air.
“And you failed miserably,” Rusty grunted. “You let one guy cause all this trouble for us; an idiot wearing a cape, running around like a clown.”
They were referring to the man known as KnightCharge, a self-proclaimed, costumed crime fighter from Valor Rock City; the capital city of Chester County. The vigilante, as many referred to him, had busted up their operation when they broke into an old storage center to steal a box of twelve, mysterious daggers.
The emissary for The Axe had contacted the Dillison Gang for this particular job, based solely on their reputation as ruthless, professional thieves, and the plan was simple: break into an old storage center, in the town of Castle Brook, look for a box full of daggers with a secret code engraved on the outside, and bring it to Shadow Cave for payment. Then hand the money to The Axe’s emissary, and split the profits down the middle. But things didn’t go quite as planned...
KnightCharge had botched up their whole job, before fleeing the scene when the police arrived. Jimmy and Rusty also managed to escape, but only with eight of the twelve daggers. When they presented them to the old man in Woody Hills Park, the man known as Elymas Kane, he refused to pay them anything...until they returned with the other four daggers.
“I say we wait a few days before trying to get back to that cave,” said Jimmy. “Get in touch with that nephew of yours and see what he says. And who knows? Maybe he got hold of the briefcase and was planning on surprising us with it.”
“Good idea.” Rusty grabbed his jacket. “I’m going to his house right now to find out.”
“Want me to come?”
“No. I’ll deal with my nephew in private.” Rusty grabbed his car keys that we're sitting on top of the dresser. “I have something else for you to do.” A serious expression came over his face. “I want you to gather up a few of the guys and hunt down this KnightCharge character.”
“How am I supposed to do that?” Jimmy started to bite his nails. “The guy’s like a ghost; he pops up out of nowhere. You’re asking for a miracle, Rusty.”
Rusty glared at him. “It’s your fault we’re in this mess! I don’t care what it takes, but you better find him and fast. In the meantime, I’ll try to stall things with The Axe.”