The masked man stabbed Joey in the gut. One, two, three, four, five. Fast and precise blows that took the air out of his lungs.
Joey had no reaction, except for his eyes bulging in astonishment. He couldn't understand what was happening to him.
He collapsed on the wet pavement, his fingers crooked as if in asking for mercy. His umbrella rolled on the sidewalk for a while, until it settled into an appropriate position. Joey looked at the masked man towering beside him. An apparition from a nightmare. Completely unexplainable. Bone chilling. The street lamp right above its head only added to its ethereal nature.
Joey didn't say a word. He kept his lips closed tight. Drops of rain splashed on his round face resembling a doughnut. Doughnuts. Joey loved them. He wished he could have had a last one, before he died.
Because he knew for sure he was about to die.
The masked man was wearing a yellow raincoat and camouflage boots. His mask was white, nothing distinctive about it. The eyes behind it seemed to be made out of steel: harsh, emotionless, blank.
Joey knew his guts were hanging out of him, but he felt no pain. The rivulets of blood flowing out of his body were mixing with the rivulets produced by the rain. Life was draining from him, drop by drop, but he didn't really care. He was not going to make it.
He didn't want to.
The masked man didn't move. He just stood there, looking back at Joey, as if he was a cockroach. It seemed to last forever.
"Any last wishes?" the masked man asked, his voice muffled.
Joey smiled in prostration.
He tried to speak, but nothing came out of his mouth except for thick blood mixed with saliva. His teeth were red.
"I couldn't hear you," the masked man said. The knife shined in his hand.
Joey looked around. Nobody was coming to save him. They were completely alone, as if they were on Mars or some other planet.
Nothing to loose.
"Dough..." he mumbled, blood gurgling out of his mouth.
"Excuse me?" the masked man asked.
Joey smiled again.
"Dough... Dough..." he tried harder.
"I can't understand you, man," the other one said. "I'll get closer."
So the masked man got down on one knee beside Joey, and put his ear to the dying man's lips.
"Doughnut," Joey managed to whisper, proud of himself.
The masked man nodded and got back on his feet. He looked at Joey's guts, which were spilled all over the pavement.
"Well, I've got no doughnuts on me," he said. "I apologise about that."
Joey blinked in acknowledgment. He wasn't going to have his last wish fulfilled. Which was a bad thing, for sure, but not a tragedy. For whatever reason, Joey was consoled by the absurd thought that he was going to eat as many doughnuts as he wanted in the afterlife. All shapes, sizes, colours and flavours. The doughnuts' paradise was waiting for him. That was for damn sure.
Without saying a word, the masked man grabbed Joey and threw him on his shoulder, like a sack of potatoes. Which was an impressive feat, considering that Joey weighted at least 260 pounds. There was a brick wall 6 feet tall on their right. The masked man arched his knees and then he catapulted Joey over it.
The latter landed on his head, losing his consciousness.
The masked man looked around. He saw the umbrella Joey had dropped earlier. He picked it up and threw it over the fence. After that, he examined the traces his victim might have left behind. Fortunately for him, the rain was washing the blood on the pavement at a very fast rate, directing it towards the gutter. The same was happening with the blood that had splashed on the brick fence.
Nature was serving him well.
No other personal objects had been left behind by his victim. The masked man made sure of this by painstakingly examining every inch of pavement. He didn't find any wallet, phone, ring, watch or key. Nothing at all.
He would have smiled under his mask, but he never smiled.
Before joining his victim on the other side of the wall, he looked up and down the street. Was anybody heading towards him, or loitering in the area? Not a living soul! It was four in the morning and raining like crazy. What man or woman in their right mind would have been out and about in these apocalyptic conditions?
Only Joey, of course. But Joey was a whole different story.
The only thing the masked man was worried about were the houses on the other side of the street, or, to be more specific, the people living in them. A person suffering from insomnia might have witnessed the whole episode, from behind their curtain. He or she might have called the police. Which meant trouble. Big trouble.
The kind of thing the masked man didn't want now. Because he was about to get busy. He needed some time to do what he had set his mind to do. And he preferred not to be disturbed.
He gave one last look to the houses across the street and then he jumped the brick wall with the ease of an acrobat.
Behind the wall, there was a graveyard. A massive one. It seemed to go on and on and on forever. There were so many crosses spread across the rich, moist land, that your mind didn't even dare to start counting them.
"Death, productive as ever," the masked man thought. "Too bad I will never be able to match it."
The heavy rain, the darkness, the crooked trees guarding some of the tombs, they all gave the graveyard a hellish look. The masked man even saw a black cat disappearing behind a bush, its fur shining like oil.
He felt at home.
"Let's get down to businesses," he thought.
Joey was lying at his feet in a fetal position, like a child in his mother's womb. He had landed on his head, but the ground being soft and covered in grass, he had survived. His guts were spread in front of him, like an offering for the dead buried in that cemetery. He was moaning in his sleep, loudly, like a lamb on the killing floor. The sound of the rain was luckily covering his screams.
The masked man looked at his belly, which was of considerable sizes.
"You sure like your doughnuts, Joey, don't you?" he asked, not caring that he wasn't being heard. "The sugar rush... The guilt after... I wonder if you ever hit the gym in your life. I guess not."
He slapped Joey in the face, pushing one of his teeth out of its socket.
"Not such a great loss for society, Joey, you big boy!" the masked man continued. "No one will miss you. No one will care."
The masked man kneeled at his victim's head.
Joey opened his eyes all of a sudden. He shook his head like a dog, trying to wake himself up. He didn't know where he was. He had probably expected to be in his bed, enjoying a good night's sleep, so the mud he was lying in and the crosses right in front of his nose confused him a great deal.
For a brief moment, he thought he was having a nightmare.
And then the realisation kicked in. He had been savagely attacked by a masked man. Stabbed five times in the gut. Left to die with his intestines hanging out.
The events played in his mind like a movie on fast forward.
He was coming back from work and minding his own business, like any good citizen. There was a heavy rain that night. Thick like a wall. He couldn't see much. Luckily, a colleague had borrowed him an umbrella. He was about to pass by a graveyard, which he dreaded, because it always gave him the spooks. Thousands and thousands of dead buried in the same place, waiting to come back as zombies, just like in the movies. Hungry for his tender, juicy flesh.
And then, suddenly, this masked man jumped from behind a corner and sticked a knife in his belly, not once, not twice, but five times, like he had nothing better to do at four o'clock in the morning, on a heavy rain they haven't announced in the weather reports.
Joey was pretty sure the masked man had been waiting for him specifically behind that corner, because of the timing, the ferocity and the precision of the attack.
That man hated him, and he didn't know why.
It was personal. It had to be.
Joey put two and two together and came to the conclusion that, after stabbing him, the masked man had thrown him in the graveyard, just like a sack of potatoes, at which point he had lost his consciousness, probably because of a bad fall.
The course of events was neatly organised in his mind now, just like a row of baby ducks crossing the street. All good on that front.
The problem was that, after realising what had happened to him and, even worse, that the masked man was in his presence right then and there, the most primeval terror invaded his body, making him kick about and scream like a mad man.
He wasn't happy to die anymore. He didn't want to just "let go". He wanted to live.
And he was going to fight for his life. He was going to turn his beast mode on.
The masked man punched him in the face and Joey lost his consciousness again. His body went soft like a rag doll.
"What's coming is inevitable, Joey, don't you know that?" the masked man asked.
He took his knife out, tested its sharpness with his fingertip, and then he got busy.