A small scruffy looking man walked, with a curious limp, down a road in need of repair in a seedy part of town. His rubber boots were filled with saltwater that seeped out little by little with each stomp. His appearance was somewhat veiled by the darkness of night. The streetlights provided short glimpses of the man for the few townspeople who remained out at this late hour. He looked as though he had nearly escaped some form of calamity. He was bruised upon the face, his clothing torn and disheveled. His back was forced into a hunch by the heaviness of a sack he carried over his shoulder. He clung on tightly with his fists to the bunched-up fabric that made up the opening of his sack. He sighed and sneered as he struggled to puff on his sickeningly sweet cigar.
He was nowhere near dry when he made it to the end of the crumbling road and entered the only bar in town that was still open. He walked straight to the bartender and asked for access to the back room in a peculiar way that only the bartender would immediately recognize. He was granted access and then left to fend for himself. The back room was even more dimly lit than the main room of the establishment. It was filled with the very people that made this side of town seedy. They were the type that mostly roamed at night and always found the trouble they were looking for. All were dressed in dark attire, with a similar unapproachable demeanor about them. It was difficult to tell one from the others seated around the tables, which were in a tight arrangement throughout the room. There were several different types of gambling taking place. The type varied between tables, with poker having persuaded the majority to try their luck.
The stranger examined each man seated as he carefully walked in between the tables. One by one, he ruled them out as a party of interest. The target of his search wasn’t sitting with the generic men gambling their small earnings away. He was seated in a booth in the back of the room, with the only women in the bar seated around him. He was at a vantage point that allowed him to observe all that would be his winnings from the losses of others. His higher station was indicated by his perch, the quality of his attire, and the submissive behavior of all those around him.
The stranger eventually recognized the prominent man he was seeking and walked in his direction. He took his sack off his back, placed it on the floor, and dragged it the rest of the way. He put his cigar out in the palm of his hand and humbly approached the booth. A few oafish ruffians standing nearby quickly and most efficiently blocked the uninvited guest from approaching their boss.
The man chuckled at his overeager henchmen and motioned for them to allow the intrusion.
“Rough night, Bart?” he joked from his comfortable seated position.
“You could say as much, Cyrus.”
“I did. What happened?”
Cyrus stood up and asked his female guests to leave them. The women walked away but made certain not to engage any of the other men in the room as they circulated about.
Cyrus motioned to the booth. “Have a seat.”
Bart sat down and struggled to pull the heavy sack under the table.
“Now, what do you mean, everything’s gone?” Cyrus asked.
“The men, the barge, Cap, the girls, everything.”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told ya.”
“I’ll show ya.”
Cyrus reluctantly watched as Bart wrestled his sack from the floor to the seat of the booth. Bart opened the sack to reveal a single object. He strained a bit as he picked it up and placed it on the table. The weight of the object shook the table upon impact.
Bart motioned for Cyrus to examine it. It was a dense metal cube that looked to be made up of recycled parts.
“What’s this?” Cyrus asked.
“Give it a turn.”
Cyrus gave Bart a look of warning. He was curious but slightly reluctant to follow the instructions of anyone he saw to be of lesser importance than himself.
Burt softened his request. “Please, turn it around, sir.”
Cyrus used both hands to pull the cube over to him and slowly turn it around. He didn’t find any answers on the opposite side of the cube, or so he thought.
“Am I supposed to know what this is?” Cyrus asked.
“It’s the barge, or what’s left of it.”
Bart pointed out the pieces of red lettering that faced inward. Cyrus sat with his gaze fixed on the lettering.
“Did you tell anybody about this?” Cyrus asked.
“No, I haven’t seen nobody yet.”
“Keep your mouth shut.”
“What ya gonna do?” Bart asked.
“I’ll take care of it.”
“I said I’ll take care of it, now get outta here.”
Bart scurried off, moving a bit quicker without the weight of the cube on his back. He was nimble and thankful to retain his life after laying such a failure out in front of the man who’d commissioned the abductions.
Cyrus stood and picked the cube up from the table. This time he managed to manipulate it with one hand. He slid out of the booth and spoke briefly to his henchmen.
Cyrus showed the cube to his men. “There’s only one that could have done this.”
His men nodded in agreement.
The men nodded again.
Cyrus walked swiftly out of the bar toward the beach, with the cube still in his hand. He angrily marched through the sand, leaving large indentations with each step. He stared at the cube intensely as he entered the ocean, fully clothed. He advanced farther, toward the dark horizon. There was no attempt to hold his breath or swim as the waters deepened. He proceeded until there was no evidence of his submergence that remained. The moonlight fell onto the calm surface, highlighting his seamless disappearance but failing to illuminate the stirrings of evil below that would soon rise to the top.
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