Friday, May 31, 2013

Page 69

Colt at once remembered why he loathed this person. “Whose hand is that?”

“Oh, do you want it? I was thinking about giving it to you, actually. I have the other one, as well.”

It was a small hand, thin fingers with long nails and pallid skin, preserved, likely taken from a corpse. “Who does it belong to?" he said, even less patient now.

“The girl you killed. Melissa Mallory.”

Colt ground his teeth and glowered. “Why do you have it?”

Geoffrey tilted his head, confused. “Because I wanted it, obviously. It makes a nice souvenir, don’t you think?”

“How did you even get it? You’re not allowed out of the building.”

“That would be telling.”

“A year ago, I would have killed you where you stood for this.”

Geoffrey smiled, and his eyes widened manically. Eagerly. “Perhaps we are not as similar as I thought, Mr. Colt. But then, I can’t say I am disappointed. This may be even better.”

“And people think I’m psychotic.”

“You should be glad,” said Geoffrey. “I wouldn’t let you talk to me that way if I did not like you, Mr. Colt.”

“I’m not afraid of your uncle, idiot.”

“Oh, I know. Honestly, that is the most annoying thing about being his nephew. Everyone thinks they should be afraid of him. It tries my patience, sometimes. People are afraid of you, though, aren’t they? How do you manage that, exactly?”

“Get the fuck away from me before I break both your legs and throw you in your uncle’s pool.”

“Intimidation. Charming. I’ll keep that in mind.” Surprisingly, he actually left Colt alone. The other people in the hallway were quick to get out of Geoffrey’s way.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Page 68

Colt didn’t much care for the way Rofal’s men looked at him as he passed them in the hall. Whenever he caught one staring, he would meet their gaze evenly until they averted their eyes. Geoffrey was a different story, however.

“Mr. Colt! I was hoping to see you!” Geoffrey was a strange creature. Not yet a grown man, but he often wore tailored black suits and ties with even blacker undershirts. His dark hair was always sharply cut and combed, and his pointed eyebrows made him look perpetually and indignantly attentive.

Colt wondered if ignoring him would make him go away.

“I heard you killed five people the other day,” said Geoffrey. “How was it? Did they scream a lot?”

He figured not. “No. They didn’t even know what happened.”

“Ah. I see. Efficiency. That’s less fun, but I can appreciate the preference.”

Colt squinted at him as they walked. “What do you want, kid?”

Geoffrey’s brow receded a little. “Only to get to know you better, Mr. Colt. I like you. We’re kindred spirits, I feel. You’re not like the dullards my uncle usually has working for him.”

“The dullards I used to make a habit of killing, you mean.”

Geoffrey’s smile was full of teeth. “My uncle says you’re a true savage.”

“You should hear what he says about you.”

“Oh? Do tell.”

“That you’re an irreverent pain in the ass with no mind for the consequences of your actions.”

Geoffrey laughed. “He worries too much. Still doesn’t trust me to handle my own affairs. Well, he’s only human, I suppose.”

It was then that Colt noticed Geoffrey was carrying something.

A severed human hand.

Page 67 -- VIII.

No. We didn’t rob a bank. We just won’t be able to make large purchases at licensed vendors without drawing attention.


We could have stolen from Rofal’s gun running business,’ said Garovel, ‘or his car theft ring, but money doesn’t change hands nearly as often in those. And stealing from the prostitution business would have probably done more harm to the prostitutes than to Rofal.

But what if, uh... Rofal tracks the money himself?

Hmm. Fair point. You should stop and check for devices.

Alright.’ He found an alley and put the bags down to search them all. Stacks of troas filled each, more money than Hector had ever seen in his life. A single-troa note was a blue-and-white paper bill with the bearded face of King Martinus I at the center. His great granddaughter currently wore the crown. ‘I’m not seeing anything that looks like a tracking device...

Good. Store the money somewhere away from your house, just to be safe.


Ponytail is finally leaving. I’m in pursuit.

Chapter Eight: ‘Where an Aberration doth grow...’
Click to display entire chapter at once -- (mobile link)

Beneath the city, below the pipes and sewers and miles of cable, lay the mansion. Old wood and cold stone sat stark against the lamplight along the path to the entrance. Its turreted roof bore a pillar at the center which led up into Brighton, but the elevator therein was reserved for the Rofal family. Jeremiah Colt had to use an entrance hidden beneath a liquor store, a staircase into a lift the size of a broom closet.

The guards at the entrance stood upon his arrival and searched him, relieving him of his firearm and three knives.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Page 66

Garovel floated off to go find Ponytail, and Hector was left to grumble his way through the night by himself. It wasn’t long before he heard Garovel laughing again, however. ‘It’s fair to say we’ve stirred things up here. You left your chin behind, and it’s freaking them out.

Oh... should I have... uh...’ The pain made it difficult to even think straight. ‘Should I have taken that with me?


They won’t, er... try to... study it and reverse engineer my power or something?


I mean... uh... like... I dunno...

You’re afraid they’ll unlock the secret of immortality by studying your chin?

Is that... stupid?

Um. It's just impossible. Your flesh is just flesh. I’m what makes you unkillable. They could study your body all they like, and they wouldn’t learn anything.

Okay... good.

You have a strange imagination by the way.

I’m just... trying to be diligent...


Uh... so... how much money do you think we got, anyway?

They’re talking about that now, actually. Well. Yelling about it. Ooh, seventy grand, Ponytail says.

Hector’s eyes widened.

Looks like Rofal consolidated several weeks worth of cash here from all over the city. I wonder if he was planning a big purchase.

Seventy thousand troas... what do I even do with this kind of money...?

That’s our funding for critical purposes. No spending it on booze and hookers.

Hector snorted. ‘What about drugs? Meth and heroin are okay, right?

Oh yeah. Let’s just give it all back to Rofal while we’re at it.

Are you, um... er... are you sure we can even spend this money? Isn’t it, like... being tracked by the government or something?

Page 65

Blood and drool oozed from the gaping hole in his face. Hector just turned and locked eyes with the shooter. It was a young guy, not much older than himself, holding a magnum unsteadily with both hands, but when he saw Hector, he dropped his gun and stumbled back.

More men rushed in from the entrance, but when they saw Hector, they all stopped.

“Holy fuck...”

“What is that thing?”

Hector’s undead glare seemed enough to prevent any of them from taking another step. He waited a bit to see if they still wanted to fight, but when they merely kept staring, Hector picked up his dented mask and left.

As Garovel reconstructed Hector’s jawbone, he stood at the other end of the street, waiting again to see if any of them would pursue. None did.

I’m going to follow Ponytail back to Rofal. Once we know where his headquarters is, we’ll be able to launch an assault at our leisure. You know your way home, right?

His mouth completely reformed, he said, “Yeah.”

The reaper looked at him a moment, bony fingers hovering in front of Hector’s face. ‘I’m going to bring the soreness back to let your body recover while I’m away. Are you ready?

Hector groaned. “Go ahead...”

Pain exploded through his mouth.

“Ffff--! Kuh! It feels like my face’s been ripped off!”

Well. It was. Actually.

He dropped to one knee, clutching his mouth with his free hand. “Fucking...! Agh...!”

On the bright side, I’m sure the rest of your body feels completely painless by comparison.

He stood and started walking again, trying to stifle his continued groans. “Fuck this hurts...!”

Alright, potty mouth.

“Fuck you! Agh! This is the worst one yet!”

Garovel laughed. ‘Only joking. You should be swearing. It’ll help you cope with the pain.


Okay. You don’t have to be insulting about it.

“Just... ugh...”

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Page 64

“I-I... uh... d-don’t...”

Hector, c’mon. Scare them. Just yell or something.

Yell? I can’t... I don’t... that just isn’t--agh...

Ponytail ran for the door.

Hector was on him in a heartbeat and kneed him back into the corner. “Please don’t run...”

Wait a minute,’ said Garovel. ‘Okay, no yelling. Just talk to them very quietly. Whisper, if you need to.

Really? B-but, uh...

Trust me. Speak very slowly and deliberately. Make them strain to hear you. Oh, and be polite, too. Say please, like just now.

Uh...’ “Please tell your boss... that I’m coming for him...”

Oh, that was good! Tell them that anyone else who gets in your way will be visiting the morgue.

But I don’t want to kill them...

Of course, but THEY don’t need to know that.

Ah, okay...’ “And anyone who gets in my way... will be paying a visit to the morgue...”

Both of their faces went white.

Aha, look at them! This is way better than yelling.

You’re starting to creep me out, Garovel...

Me? You just about made them piss themselves with creepiness.

He left the room, barely squeezing all the bags through the door. He knew there were still more men in the building, but he didn’t see them before hearing the gunshot. The bullet tore through his jaw and ripped the mask from his face. His severed chin and tongue splattered to the floor in a gory mess.

Page 63

The money is in the rearmost room,’ Garovel told him. ‘Hold on a minute.’ The reaper phased through the wall while Hector waited in the dimly lit hallway. ‘Six men. Oh, Ponytail is talking about Colt. Rumors, he’s saying... about Colt being a psychopath... but at the same time... forced to work for Rofal?

Wait, what...?

I’m listening... Bah. They’re talking about food now. They want to go get pizza. At gunpoint? What the hell is wrong with these people? Please come stomp their heads in.

He flung the door open and kicked the first man he saw across the room.

“What the fuck?!”

“Oh, shit! You!”

Hector leapt on his second victim and knocked him out cold. Now the guns were out, but the hail of bullets didn’t stop him from reaching the third and fourth men and clapping their skulls together. Only Ponytail and another thug remained, fumbling too much to reload their weapons, their spare magazines clattering to the floor.

Hector stood in front of them for a moment, considering what to do next. Bashing their faces in hardly seemed necessary at this point, and besides, Ponytail’s face was still swollen blue and purple.

He walked up and pulled their guns away from them. They both just stared at him, wide-eyed and cornered.

“What the hell are you?” said Ponytail. “I heard Colt killed you.”

Hector eyed the table full of duffel bags in the middle of the room. He slung all seven bags over his shoulder with one hand.

You’re not going to stomp their heads in, too?’ The reaper sounded disappointed. ‘Well, at least threaten them before you leave.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Page 62

I, uh... I went around back,’ he told Garovel.

“What are you doing here?”

“What’s with the mask? Looking for a beating?”

“Hey, didn’t Swank mention a masked guy?”

“Is that you, asshole? Huh? Say something!”

Garovel appeared from the wall and reached for him. ‘I’m not sure I approve of all these new friends you’ve made, Hector.

The strength blazed through him. He took a deep breath and moved for the door. The first man to stand in his way ate pavement. The others all took a step back at how quickly their comrade had been left bleeding on the ground, but after a moment, they seemed to find their courage again.

Three rushed him at once. He pummeled two into each other and took a metal baseball bat to the back of the head. When he turned around, shaking the disorientation away, the guy who hit him staggered back. Hector ripped the bat away and returned the favor, lobbing the man into four of his buddies.

They started pulling knives, and in the ensuing mayhem, he received six stab wounds, all in the gut, chest, and back. When there were only a few left, he was a bit surprised to see that instead of pulling guns on him, they just ran. Looking down at the blades stuck in his torso, he supposed he could understand their sentiment. He decided to leave the knives in a while longer.

Groaning or unconscious thugs riddled the alleyway, draped over the staircase, the side of the parked truck, and for one lucky winner, a 10-foot brick wall. Hector held onto the baseball bat as he went inside the building.

The first person he saw seemed more confused than aggressive, and Hector was kind enough to wait until the man attacked before punching him into next week.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Page 61 -- VII.

Chapter Seven: ‘O, truculent fortune...!’
Click to display entire chapter at once -- (mobile link)

How many guys are there?

I counted forty-three. No, wait. I see another one.

Hector furrowed his brow at the evening sky. ‘Uh... holy shit... I mean, are you sure I can take forty dudes?

Of course you can. Probably. Oh, hey, it’s that ponytail guy.

Ponytail guy?

You remember. You knocked his teeth out. I’m surprised he’s out of jail already. It’s barely been two days since he was arrested.

Perks of being on Rofal’s payroll, I guess...

Even so, two days is a bit ridiculous. The police force must be more corrupt than we thought. Maybe lawyers, as well.

Hector eyed the building another time. It didn’t look like a drug den. It looked like a bowling alley. And it probably was, most of the time. The men loitering around the entrance were an indicator, however. They shooed away potential customers, despite the neon sign illuminating the street.

Ah,’ Garovel said, ‘looks like Ponytail is here to move the money. Smart. This is probably why the police can’t seem to find any of these cash houses. As soon as they start getting close, I bet someone in the department warns Rofal’s people. Must be why there are so many of them here right now. They seem to be in a hurry. You should probably come introduce yourself now.

Will do.’ He put his mask on and started down the street. The men at the front all stared at him as he passed, and when he circled around toward the back entrance, a few of them broke away to follow him. Several more were already waiting behind the building, alongside a parked truck with its engine running. A circle of Rofal’s muscle grew around him.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Page 60

Four or five students sat around each of the black tables, absorbed in various group projects, with a few extra people hovering around the machinery at the back of the room.

He approached the nearest group, but as soon as he got close, three people left. Only Lance and a guy he didn’t recognize stayed, but after a moment of apparent confusion, the stranger followed the others.

“Popular as ever,” said Lance.

“You’re... not going with them?” said Hector.

Lance looked at him for a long moment. “You could’ve really screwed me over, you know.”

Hector didn’t say anything.

“Let me know if you need help with something,” said Lance, and then he left as well.

With the whole table to himself, Hector glanced around again. Only the new members spared him the occasional look, and he could see a couple of them asking the others about him.

What’s with this atmosphere?’ Garovel said. ‘It's annoying.

It doesn’t matter...

Want me to suck their souls out through their eyeballs?

You can’t do that.

No. I could try, though.

He smirked faintly.

I’ll get you to tell me what happened sooner or later.’ At Hector’s persistent silence, he changed the subject. ‘Anyhow, are you sure you can make something for your head here?

It won’t be anything amazing, but yeah... I just need some materials.’ He paused, blinking. ‘Shit. I completely forgot...


He looked toward the corner storage room, around which was a caged enclosure with a hatch and a countertop. ‘I’m an idiot. The materials aren’t free... If I want some metal, I’ll have to pay for it... or steal it, I guess... but I really don’t want to do that again...

Aha. That time already, huh? I was wondering when we’d need to find some startup capital.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Page 59

“It’s like I told you,” said Lance. “He’s the one who took the mask. Then he went and lost it.”

“Is this true?”

He gave another nod. “Yeah.”

Ms. Trent glared at Lance. “Did you bully Hector into saying this?”

“Of course not!”

“You’d better tell me the truth now. If I find out later, I swear to goddess I will have you suspended.”

“I didn’t bully anyone!”

“He’s telling the truth,” said Hector. “He, uh... he tried to stop me, actually.” ‘Why does everyone think I’m being bullied?

You do look very bulliable.

“Alright,” said Ms. Trent. “Lance, you’re off the hook. Hector, you have three days’ detention, and you’ll have to pay a fine to replace the mask.”

Lance took a relieved breath and left.

“Uhh... but I don’t have any money...”

“Then your parents will have to pay.”

Hector frowned. “W-what if they don’t?”

“They’ll pay if they want you to graduate. The school will withhold your diploma if you have any outstanding fines.”

He didn’t think that would make a difference, but he kept his doubts to himself. He could worry about it later. “I, um... I also came here for another reason.”

“What would that be?”

“I’d like to rejoin the club.”

“Oh, is that so? Well, all you have to do is start showing up again. I’m still not sure why you stopped.”

“Ah... just... personal reasons...”

Ms. Trent wasn’t the type to pry. Or perhaps she just didn’t care very much. Hector had never quite figured her out. But whatever the reason, she didn’t push the issue and let him return to the workroom with the others.

Page 58

Sorry. I know you are. What were you trying to say?

I’ve always wanted a friend who was... uh... well, friendly. I mean, like, y’know... the opposite of me... Not that, uh, I didn’t want any other type of friend, but just. Really outgoing people... they always intimidate me, but...

I see. So you’re thinking it’s too good to be true.

Basically, yeah...

Garovel shrugged. ‘Maybe it is. Maybe he’s secretly a total dick.

What the...? This was your idea!

Yeah, and it’s worth seeing through. But you still shouldn’t get your hopes up too much. Better to be pleasantly surprised than bitterly disappointed.

Hector had to nod at that as he started for his next class.

At the day’s end, it was time to pay a visit to the carpentry club once again. Strangely, he hadn’t been dreading it. He knew it would be terrible, but something about the necessity of it, the unavoidability, made it easy to just accept.

He entered the workroom to the sight of a dozen familiar faces and a handful of new ones. He heard the chatter dull as a few people noticed him. Lance Alexander approached him straight away.

“Please tell me you came to return the mask.”

“Sorry,” Hector said. “I lost it.”

“Geez. Well, could you at least tell that to Ms. Trent? She didn’t believe me when I told her you took it. She gave me detention.”

Hector nodded. “I’ll tell her.”

Lance eyed him. “I’m sure you won’t mind if I go with you.”

“Just... show me where she is.”

Lance led him into the back room where the club instructor sat at her desk, marking quiz papers. She looked up as they entered. “Hector?” she said. “What brings you here?”

Page 57

Tell him you’re not mad.

“N-no... I'm not mad.”

“I didn’t ruin your shirt, did I?”

“I’ve, uh... I’ve had worse...”


“Well, uh, I’m Micah.”

“Yeah, I know. We... we, um... have a couple classes together.”

“Really? I never noticed. I guess that makes sense, though. You seem like the quiet type.”


“Yeah... I have a little trouble... uh... speaking my mind...”

A little, he says!

“You should come sit with me and my friends at lunch tomorrow. I’ll introduce you to everybody. Unless you’d rather not. It’s fine, either way. Hey, you alright? You look a bit red in the face.”

Hector averted his eyes.

“Whoa, are you blushing? I’ve never seen a black person blush before. That’s pretty awesome. Kinda hard to notice, at first. Holy crap, not anymore, though. You’re like a tomato, now.” Micah laughed. “Am I making it worse? Should I stop talking about it? I’ll stop talking about it.”

Hector just stood there awkwardly, fighting the urge to flee in abject horror.

“But, um, yeah. Come sit with us tomorrow. I promise not to throw things at you. Anyway, I gotta get going. Seeya later?”

He managed a nod. He leaned against the row of lockers after Micah was gone.

That went surprisingly well,’ said Garovel. ‘What do you think?

He’s way too friendly,’ Hector thought, wide-eyed. ‘This can only end in disaster...

Oh, just calm down, drama king. If you don’t like him, that’s fine. There are plenty of other people you can be friends with.

No, that’s not it at all... I mean... I’ve, um... uh...

C’mon. Spit it out. You can do it.

Please... stop... patronizing me... I’m trying my best here...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Page 56

Don't look so scared. We'll do something easy. Just find someone you know and say hi to them.

...Right now?

Right now.

He grimaced and looked among the passing faces. He knew quite a lot of them, actually, but he wasn’t jumping at the chance to tell that to Garovel.

How about her?’ said Garovel. He pointed to blond Jenny Friedman, with whom Hector had attended middle school.

Fuck no!

Why not? What’s wrong with her?

She’s a girl!

What?! I had no idea! Eww! Keep her away from me, Hector! Don't let her touch me with her girl-cooties!

He pursed his lips. ‘I... just... agh... There’s just no way... Talking to a girl is way more difficult...


Because! They--! They're--! I don't know! It just is!

Fine. What about him, then?’ The reaper pointed to Micah Chamberlain. ‘I remember him from the other day. Seemed nice enough.

Hector’s face soured as he strained for an excuse. Nothing sprung to mind, and he gave a defeated sigh. ‘Alright, I’ll... try...

You’re not moving.

I’m... just... waiting for the right moment...

There isn’t one. Go on.

B-but... uh... what do I say after hello?

Don’t worry about it. I’ll help you.

He made his way through the crowd to Micah’s locker. When the other young man turned and saw him standing there, Hector was so afraid of looking like a deer in the headlights that he just blurted the word out. “Hello.”

“Hi,” said Micah, friendly but a bit hesitant. “Uh... who are you?”

Fuck me, what do I say?

Your name. Say your name.

“H-Hector Goffe.”

“Oh! You’re the guy I accidentally hit during the food fight! I’m really sorry about that. I meant to find you afterwards and apologize properly, but I forgot. I hope you’re not too mad.”

Hector was the deer now.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Page 55

Though, if I’m completely honest, I actually would like you to receive a higher education, albeit more slowly. Perhaps one or two classes at a time. A small enough workload that it won’t clash with our more important goals.

I’m getting mixed messages here...

We respond by making ourselves better,’ the reaper said. ‘School can be a major source of information, if you allow it to be.

Hector bowed his head at that.

I don’t think I need to remind you how important information can be to us.

No, you don’t...

You’re right to be skeptical, I suppose,’ Garovel said. ‘Most of what you learn will probably never help us in the slightest. But there will undoubtedly be a small amount which WILL be useful. You can’t really know when or where you’ll acquire it, but for our undertakings, it’s entirely worth the effort. Wouldn’t you agree?

He stared distantly at the seat in front of him. ‘Some tiny thing could be the difference... between saving someone and... not.

I’ve made my point, then?



Hector waded through the day like bog water. Everything seemed a painful bore, but he persevered. Listening to everything that was said in class still felt like a gigantic waste of time, but he hoped that feeling would go away if he ignored it long enough. He didn’t know how Garovel could float around him so patiently the whole time.

Alright,’ Garovel said between classes. ‘I’m going to help you make a new friend.

Hector shut his locker. ‘I don’t like the sound of this...

Too bad. Four hours, we’ve been here. I’ve watched you walk past about five hundred different people and not say hello to a single one of them.

Is that all it takes to make a new friend? Saying hello?

It’s a start. Real friendship takes time.

Hector tried not to sigh. ‘W-what do you want me to do?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Page 54

I thought you had leads to chase down at the police station,’ Hector said.

What, are you trying to get rid of me?

Y-you know I’m not...

Hmm. I guess I do.’ Garovel was quiet for a moment. ‘Honestly, I’m concerned about you. After what happened, I think you should rest a bit. We both should. Because if we go out there again, and things go badly again, I don’t want you to... well...

Lose hope?

Is that so ridiculous?

Hector eyed the other students on the bus. They were rowdy this morning, hassling the driver and throwing paper. ‘I’m terrified of making things worse again...

As am I.

He met Garovel’s gaze. ‘So... what, then? We just... we just wait?

Until we’re ready. Yeah. Rest is important, Hector, even for us. Take it when you can get it.

But school just seems so... insignificant, I guess. Like... why am I even bothering...?

I think you’re looking at this the wrong way.

It wouldn’t surprise me...

School is a respite.

Hector eyed the reaper doubtfully.

Comparatively, that is. You’re probably going to see many terrible things, Hector. But your time in school is a chance to relieve yourself of that mindset. For a little while, at least.


Moreover, school could be of profound help to us in the future.

Um... I find that hard to believe, Garovel...

Well, perhaps not the methods. Your grades are unimportant. For our purposes, you don’t need a well-paying job, and going to college would actually be a major hindrance. You won’t likely have enough time for proper studying, let alone sitting through lectures.

Hector laughed under his breath. ‘It’s a good thing my teachers can’t hear you.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Page 53

He wanted to try again, but there wouldn’t be enough time before he had to leave for school. Instead, he stood and went for his bag. He pulled out the welding mask.

I guess that’s yours now, unless you’ve thought of a way to explain that bullet hole.

He rolled the mask over in his hands. “This... isn’t...”


“I need more than... just a mask... don’t I?”

What do you mean?

“My brain is my weak point,” he said. “I need something strong... something that will actually protect my head...”

Ah! That would be fantastic. But what, exactly? And not to sound pessimistic, but I don’t see how you could get your hands on anything that strong. Your metal might serve one day, but not anytime soon.

“I have to rejoin the carpentry club.”

Garovel’s brow receded. ‘You’re just full of ideas today, aren’t you? It’s starting to annoy me.

“I’m sorry... I’ll be sure to act stupider from now on.”

Most of the elements in the periodic table are metals, you know.

“That’s very interesting, Garovel.”

You piece of shit,’ he laughed. ‘I have thousands of years of knowledge and experience.

“I’m sure that’ll come in handy one day.”

I hope you start shitting metal turds.

“That... th-that’s not really gonna happen, right...?”

Beats me. I don’t know anything useful.

He readied himself for school. He was a bit dubious about bringing the mask with him, wondering what might happen if someone caught him with it, but he decided to take the risk. In the event of some emergency, he would be glad to have it.

To Hector's surprise, Garovel accompanied him.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Page 52

What you create is yours completely. You have dominion over its existence. For instance, if you create a fully iron sword, you could then destroy it utterly, leaving no trace. But if you came upon an iron sword which already existed, you wouldn’t have that same power over it, because you didn’t create it.

“What’s mine is mine completely... Hmm...”

That’s the principle of it, anyway. You shouldn’t get too excited, though. Servant abilities grow extremely slowly. Even very simple objects will take practice to create.

“How much practice?”

A beat passed as Garovel eyed him. ‘Shitloads.

“Aw, c’mon...”

The thing about servants, though, is that they don’t die, which gives them ample time to hone their abilities. Suffice to say, they can become very powerful. Frighteningly so.

“Those other reapers you mentioned... the ones involved in wars...”

Yeah. This is the main reason why their servants are so dangerous. And why we will keep our distance.


Training was simple enough. It required concentration, Garovel told him. Focus, clear his mind, and begin by imagining simple metallic structures. He tried a sword, but Garovel said that was too complicated, so he imagined a cube. Garovel said that was also too complicated because of the straight edges and perfect symmetry. He relegated himself to an amorphous lump, in the end.

Garovel told him to maintain this state of meditation for as long as possible without letting his mind wander into anything else. He managed an hour and sixteen minutes. The reaper seemed impressed, though Hector thought he could do better.

Afterwards, the only discernible progress seemed to be that he could make the specks disappear and reappear. And seeing as he hadn’t thought to try beforehand, he wasn’t sure if that really qualified as progress.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Page 51

“I don’t know. They just keep showing up... And my hands already ache like crazy. It’s not like the normal soreness.”

The reaper’s eye sockets widened. ‘Oh...

“What? Is it something bad...?”

On the contrary, this is unexpectedly good news. I guess it was a stress trigger. Do you have any idea what the specks are?

“That’s what I’ve been asking you!”

Oh, sorry. They could be pretty much anything.

“You’re not being very helpful, right now...”

Garovel laughed. ‘You’re right. Let me start over. Hmm. Essentially, what’s happening is that your ability is manifesting itself.

“Ability? What kind of ability is this? It’s just... powdery shit.”

That, my friend, is the beginning of a materialization ability. Creating something from nothing, that is.

“Uh... whoa...”

Right now, though, you’re only able to produce trace amounts of it.

“Trace amounts of what?”

Hard to say at this stage. Let me have another look.

He held his hands up again.

Materialization is typically based around raw elements. This is something dark gray in its natural form. Maybe iron? I don’t think there’s a way we can be certain yet.

He licked his hand. “Yeah, that’s definitely metal...”

Tch. Having a sense of taste is cheating.

“I didn’t realize we were competing.”

The reason blood tastes metallic is because of iron-containing hemoglobin in your red blood cells.

“What does that have to do with anything...?”

I just wanted to say something smart.

“Okay, um... about this ability...”

Hemoglobin is what allows blood cells to transport oxygen.


Oh, fine. What do you want to know?

“How does this ability work? And, uh... what can I do with it?”

Friday, May 17, 2013

Page 50

“I guess if... if... killing Rofal would spare innocent people... and if there’s no other way to stop him... then... maybe I could... but I’m not sure what it would take to convince me that... y’know... there really wasn’t another way...”

Heh. Part of me thought you’d be ready to go rip their heads off the second you woke up.

“I mean, I am angry... but...”

That’s not you. I know. Would have been interesting to see, though.

Hector nearly smiled at that.

Anyhow, I need to gather more information. And I think I know where to begin.

“You do?”

The state of play is changed,’ said Garovel. ‘Four police officers murdered in a single day. Even Rofal can’t keep that quiet. All of Brighton is in shock, right now. The police will be feeling the pressure to respond. I’m sure they’ll have a few leads for me.

“Hmm. You should be careful what leads you choose to follow. I think Rofal probably has another cop in his pocket. Maybe more than one.”

Garovel cocked an eyebrow at Hector. ‘Ah... huh. Yeah, you may be right. That might explain why Colt was so quick to blow his cover. He wasn’t Rofal’s only agent.


Well spotted, Hector. I’ll keep that in mind.

He tried not to blush. “And, uh... there’s something else.” He rubbed his hands together.

What are you doing? Hatching an evil plan?

“No. Just... wait a second... There." He showed his palms to Garovel. “Can you tell me what this... uh... this crud on my hands is? It’s starting to bother me...”

Garovel leaned in. ‘Specks of something? Where’d they come from?

Page 49

Fine,’ was all Garovel said.

He tilted his head at the reaper.

Garovel waved a hand. ‘We didn’t quite see eye to eye, but we were cordial. Trust me, it could have been far less pleasant.

“About what he said in the hospital... um...”

You’re thinking he had a point.

“Didn’t he? If we hadn’t intervened, Colt might not have killed those other three policemen...”

Garovel was quiet for a time. ‘You’re right,’ he said. ‘In fact, I’m almost certain he wouldn’t have killed them.

Hector reared back. “Certain?”

Colt wasn’t just in disguise. He was an actual policeman. The other officers knew him. That kind of infiltration takes time to establish. It’s not something you throw away unless you absolutely have to. Rofal must have really wanted her dead.

“Well... he got what he wanted...”

Yes...’ Garovel frowned. ‘How are you holding up?

“Oh... um, I, uh... I-I’m okay.”


He rubbed his cheek with a shaky hand. “I, uh... I’ve been trying not to think about it...”

Better to think about it here and now, instead of when you confront Colt again. Or Rofal.

“W-when will that be?”

I’m not sure. We’re in the business of saving lives, not taking them.

Hector looked at him heavily. “You would want me to kill them?”

It’s too soon to give my opinion,’ said Garovel. ‘I will need to observe their circumstances much more, first.


But... what are your thoughts on the matter? Could you purposefully kill someone? It’s not what you signed up for.

“You wouldn’t force me to do it?”


“I don’t know... I don’t want to kill anyone.”

Few do.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Page 48

Back upstairs with turkey, cheese, and tomato on toast, he sifted through the notes she had given him. Her signature was on all of them, as were a plethora of different excuses, usually involving some kind of sickness. Impressively, some were paired with forged doctor’s notes with the dates left blank. Some for P.E. Some for band. Some for chemistry. He might have been genuinely amazed, if he were actually enrolled in any of those classes.

Still, he supposed the generic notes could be useful. He smirked. He never would have expected this from his mother. Strange as it seemed, she may have just helped him and Garovel save someone’s life.

He sat back as he finished eating. Every part of him ached, but his hands had the worst of it for some reason. He couldn’t remember putting them through anything worse than the rest of him. They throbbed enough that he felt the blood pumping through the veins between his fingers. He rubbed his hands together.

There it was again. That grainy feeling. He held his hands under the lamp at his desk.

His eyes narrowed. “What is this?” Specks of dirt littered his palms. Only, it couldn’t be dirt. The color wasn’t right. They were dark and gray, not light and brown.

Without any ideas, he wiped his hands on his pants and eyed his bed again. Perhaps there was something more productive he could do, but he couldn’t think of it, so he went back to sleep, hoping Garovel would be there when he woke up. And in fact, he was.

Sleep well?

Hector breathed deep. “Yeah... surprisingly. How’d, uh... how’d it go with Bohwanox?”

Page 47

Her brow furrowed. “Well, whatever the case, if you’re going to skip school, then at least get good at it. I used to call the school and pretend to be my mother when I was your age.”

“Are you... encouraging me to skip school?”

“Don’t be stupid, sweetie. Of course you should go to school. But I can’t force you to go, so if you’re going to skip, then do it in a way that they don’t end up calling me while I’m at work. I nearly lost a client because of the interruption today.”

Hector just looked at her.

“Hold on.” She left briefly and returned with a small box. “I made you plenty of notes.” She handed it to him.

“Uh...” He was usually able to figure out what he wanted to say after a bit of fumbling, but this time he had nothing.

“Or you can just call ahead and pretend to be your father. Or do something creative. Whatever.”

Incredulous, he stared at his mother. “Uh... is Dad okay with this...?”

“Of course. You’re old enough to make your own decisions about your life, sweetie. You’ll be eighteen in a couple years, and then you’ll be on your own. It’s best you learn to start being responsible for yourself now. Goddess knows you’ve been a burden on your father and I long enough, already.” And she left him there.

He wasn't sure what this feeling was. At once confused, distraught, and still faintly happy to be thought of. It wasn't exactly pleasant, but he wondered if causing trouble would earn him further attention. He immediately discarded the notion.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Page 46 -- VI.

Chapter Six: ‘Of iron promise...’
Click to display entire chapter at once -- (mobile link)

Hector never had such a deeply consuming sleep. The second Garovel’s hand left his forehead, he was out, as if his exhaustion were a dammed river that had finally broken.

He awoke slowly. His eyes only opened halfway as he regained consciousness. He could already remember everything that had happened, but he wasn’t ready to think about it. He hid in the warmth of his bed a bit longer, the lulling tug behind his eyes telling him that nothing mattered just yet. It was all okay for a few more moments.

He took a long breath and sat up. It was still dark outside. No. That couldn’t be right. He looked at his clock. It was dark again. He must’ve slept the whole day.

Garovel?’ He waited for an answer but received none.

He could sense the dreadful thoughts there, the familiar, anguished throes. But he ignored them. It was strangely easy--uncomfortably so, even. But at the moment, he much preferred a vaguely unsettled feeling to whatever those pangs would bring. At the very least, he wanted to wait until Garovel returned.

Hunger drove him downstairs, despite how sore he still was. He found his mother in front of the refrigerator.

When she noticed him, she frowned. “Your school called,” she said. “Why did you miss class today?”

He lowered his eyes. “I... wasn’t feeling well... I stayed home and slept.”

“Are you being bullied again?”

“I’ve never been bullied...”

“You’re too quiet, sweetie. If you were a bit more outgoing, I’m sure they’d stop bothering you.”

“I’m not being bullied, Mom...” As difficult as it was to talk to her, he couldn’t help being a bit glad, still. She was showing concern for him. That was rare enough on its own.

Page 45

Ah. Someone got here before me,’ said the other reaper. He was different from Garovel. He spoke slower, more deliberately, and somehow, his soundless words just felt different. He appeared as a skeleton as well, but his bones were lankier, his face longer. ‘Just as well. So many dead at once would have taken a while on my own.

My name is Garovel. What’s yours?

Bohwanox. Pleasure to meet you. Who’s the kid? The killer?

No. He’s with me.

That would explain why he’s staring at me.’ Bohwanox paused and looked at the two of them again. ‘Ah. Tried to have him stop it, did you?

Please, now isn’t the time.

Four dead? Sure you didn’t end up making things worse? How many would have died if you’d just let it be?

Stop talking,’ said Garovel. ‘You take two, and I’ll take two.

Bohwanox drifted over the three dead policemen. ‘What about the morgue? That's what I usually come here for.

Ah. Right.’ Garovel shook his head. ‘I don't know. There's at least one more there.

Let's go there first, then. Allow these ones here the chance to go cold at least.

Very well.

Bohwanox looked over them both again, perhaps considering saying more, then drifted off in silence.

Hector,’ Garovel said gently. ‘I have to ferry these souls through the void, now. It’s going to take me a while. I won’t be back until tomorrow. You should rest.

He stood up slowly. He stared at Garovel vacantly, face spattered with blood save where his tears had fallen.

Come on. I’ll take you home first. You can sleep all you want, my friend.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Page 44

“Dammit...” Then it dawned on him, a sudden horror. What Garovel had just said. About being sorry. “Oh no...!” He barged into Melissa's room.

She was on the floor, shot in the head.

Hector reeled back out of the room. His eyes were wide open, looking at everything around him, but the image of her was stuck there. He stumbled. Just breathing was difficult, as if the air itself was choking him. He squinted hard and gnashed his teeth.

I’m sorry, Hector.’

“Fu--ck!” He clenched his fists so hard that they bled. “I was supposed to save her! I was supposed to save at least her! I can’t--I don’t--! H-how--?! I have strength! I don’t get tired! I can’t even be killed! And...! And you’re telling me that’s still not enough?! Wh-what more do--?! I just...! I don’t...! Understand...!”

We lacked something more important than all of those things.


Information,’ said Garovel. ‘If we’d known Colt worked for Rofal, we would have approached the situation differently. It was an act. He was testing the other officers’ sense of duty when he brought up the topic of protecting Melissa. I failed to see through it...

Hector’s face broke in two. He started sobbing.

I’m sorry...

“S-stop,” he cried. “It’s not... it’s not your fault...”

It is, though. You rely on me for information. Please don’t blame yourself, Hector. Please...

He only wept harder.

It was quiet for a long time. No one came to check on them. Everyone who hadn
t already left probably fled when they heard gunshots. Garovel said nothing, just let him cry. His bloody hands were warm, throbbing, and he thought he could feel something grainy in them, like dirt, but with his vision blurred, he couldn’t tell what it was.

When the tears finally stopped, however, something else consumed his attention, something entirely unexpected. A second reaper appeared through the wall.

Page 43

“The fuck?!” The thugs drew their weapons, which made the cops draw theirs, but Hector had already grabbed his second thug by the arm. He flung him into the third like a rag doll, and they both stayed down. Hector turned to the fourth, took a bullet in the chest, and punched the man so hard that he felt the guy’s jaw break.

“Holy shit. Who the--” A gunshot cut the words short.

He spun around in time to see Colt gun two other officers down, the third already on the ground. All in the back of the head, before they even knew what happened.

Colt looked at him. “Hey, you’re that kid, aren’t you? What’s with the mask?”

Hector was on him in a blink. He slapped the gun away and shoved him against the wall. “What are you doing?! Why did you kill them?!”

“What can I say? My boss is a family man.” Colt squirmed under Hector’s grip. “You know, you really should’ve listened--”

Hector felt the blade enter below his chin. Everything flashed and went dark.

This was a familiar feeling. Emptiness. A vague notion of being in a vacuum. No life, no breath, no light, nothing to sense or be conscious of.

And then he was back. He sat up, discovering he had been on the floor. He shook his head, blinking. “What happened...?”

I’m sorry, Hector... I couldn’t revive you fast enough...

“Wh-what? I don’t--”

Colt stabbed you. The knife pierced your brain. You still need your brain. I had to resurrect you.

He climbed to his feet. His mask had come off, but that wasn't his first concern. “Where’d he go?”

‘I don’t know. I couldn’t follow him and revive you at the same time.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Page 42

Hector only shrunk into his chair, pulling his bag to his chest and looking at the sterile floor.

“Shit, kid. It was a warning, not a threat.” After a moment, Colt shrugged and started walking away. “Fine. Do what you want.”

He watched Colt go, watched him talk with a pair of nurses and a doctor, watched them all scurry away not long after he left them alone.

Hector didn’t have to wait much longer after that. He noticed the men as soon as they entered the intersecting hallway. He counted four, walking together, all wearing sunglasses at night and dark hats indoors. He donned his own mask and stood.

They’re here,’ he said.

As am I.’ Garovel emerged from the wall and grabbed Hector's shoulder. Hector was starting to get used to the pain. ‘Wait until we’re a hundred percent sure it’s them,’ Garovel said. ‘It’d be awkward if you attacked a dance troupe or something.

Hector gave him a look.

Hey, it’s possible. Maybe one of their members broke his leg during a routine, and they came to visit him in the hospital. You don’t know.

He waited until they approached the group of officers. When the uniforms started to make way for them, that was good enough confirmation for Hector. He bounded down the hallway. They turned at the sound of his footsteps, but it was far too late for the leftmost thug. Hector barreled into him. The man’s body punched through the thin wall, raining plaster into Melissa’s room. She shrieked.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Page 41

The mother is not alive.


The nurse asked Melissa about it. She said her mother died nine years ago. She didn't mention any other family.

Geez... and now this...

Yeah. Wait. Here comes the doctor. The surgery’s over already?

Hector held his breath.

...They couldn’t give him a blood transfusion in time. He’s dead.

He exhaled and shut his eyes.

Melissa’s a wreck.

Hector ran a hand down his face. ‘You were right.

I wish I wasn’t.

They waited. Hector shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The tension was suffocating. He poked his head around the corner every now and again, wondering what the officers were talking about. Then he saw one of them walking in his direction.

The man was mumbling under his breath as he turned the corner. “--morons...” He locked eyes with Hector, who immediately tried to look away, but to no avail. “Hey, kid. What are you doing here?”

“Uh--" When he met the man’s eyes again, he was a bit surprised to see a very calm blue gaze, relaxed, or perhaps just confident. The pin on his uniform read ‘COLT.’ “I’m... just waiting for someone... Why?”

“Maybe you should go for a walk. Get some fresh air or something. It’ll do you good.”

Hector lowered his brow a little. “Thank you, but I’m fine...”

Colt leaned in. “I can’t order you to leave. I don’t have that kind of authority, and frankly, I’m a man who respects another man’s right to go where he likes and do what he wants. But, kid. It’s about to get real fucked up in here. And trust me when I say you’re gonna wish you were somewhere else.”

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Page 40 -- V.

Chapter Five: ‘Beholden to thy grim task...’
Click to display entire chapter at once -- (mobile link)

Night arrived by the time Hector reached the hospital. He tried to air out his freshly sweat-soaked clothes as he entered the building.

Mallory’s daughter was supposed to be in protective custody for the remainder of the night, and Garovel had initially wanted Hector to get some rest. But then the reaper heard some of the officers talking privately. Each of the four guards assigned to her expected Rofal’s men to come for her by night’s end, and only Officer Colt seemed to harbor any notion of standing in their way. And it hadn’t taken the other three long to talk him down.

Having no need of further direction, Hector waited until the man at the reception desk wasn’t looking and snuck past. He held his bag close at his side and tried not to make eye contact with any of the passing attendants.

Mallory had been taken to the rear wing of the hospital for surgery, and according to Garovel, his daughter sat in the waiting room. Hector peeked around the corner and saw the four officers standing at the other end of the hall.

I see the room,’ he thought. He took a seat out of the officers’ sightline.

Good. I’m with the daughter.

Learn anything new?

Her name is Melissa. A bit on the short side, looks a couple years older than you, brown hair, ponytail in a braid, green shirt with a cute dog on it, blue pants, white sneakers--

That--uh--that’s a lot of information...

You may need to know what she looks like.

Uh... yeah, okay. Thanks. I meant more, um... about the mother or about Rofal, maybe...

Friday, May 10, 2013

Page 39

He kept going over the scene in his head. He kept questioning his decisions during the fight. Maybe it was a mistake to take out the three men, first. Maybe the gunshots alerted the two men out front and caused them to start shooting at Mallory sooner. But if he’d gone for the two front men first, then Mallory would’ve been alone against three. And even if he had somehow managed to meet Mallory before them, there was no way he could have convinced the officer that he wasn’t also there to kill him. Maybe he didn’t have to convince him, though. Maybe if he’d--. Maybe he could’ve--. Maybe...

When he arrived home, he found himself alone again. His parents were still out, probably at a restaurant, considering the hour. Garovel had left as soon as Hector began to recognize buildings.

He made his way upstairs and threw his bag on the bed. He wondered if he would have time to relax at all. He wasn’t tired, exactly, but he felt like he should be. He sat down to take his shoes off. A bit of blood had seeped into his right sock.

I’m at home,’ he told Garovel. ‘I’ll be changed soon.

I’m at the scene.

What have you learned?

Apparently, the daughter was upstairs the whole time.

Holy shit...’ Hector’s brow lowered, and he scratched his head. ‘Sh-she... she heard the gunshots and everything...?

I’m looking for her now. Word is, she saw a black male in a red shirt and a strange mask fleeing the crime scene.

Of course...

There was a long pause. ‘Shit.

What’s the matter?

I see her. She has the aura. Rofal put the hit on her, too.

Page 38

Seriously? You were just shot five times, Hector. Not to mention you saw a guy’s brain spilling out of his head. And then Mallory, too. I’m surprised this didn’t happen when you were stabbed last night. Just relax a moment. Sit down. You’ll be fine.

The sirens had stopped. They’d reached the house. Sitting in the grass with his legs folded together, he just breathed and tried to think. He frowned and pulled his mask off, as well. He touched the bullet hole with his thumb. “What did I do wrong, Garovel?” he whispered. “I could have saved him... couldn’t I? I screwed up... but... agh...”

The reaper floated around him. ‘Do you remember what I said before? Sometimes there won’t be a good option left to choose.

“...Is that supposed to be comforting?”

No. It’s not. Because we’re not supposed to be comfortable. Being comfortable makes us complacent. Sloppy.

“Then... what are you saying?”

I’m saying we did our best. And we don’t respond to failure with depression. We respond by becoming better. Until our best is good enough.

Hector hesitated, but gave a solemn nod. After another moment, he asked, “What do we do now?”

At the very least, you need a change of clothes. Do you know how to get home?

“Um... actually, no. I’m completely lost...”

Then I’ll guide you home and return on my own to observe. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find out where the mother and daughter are. Put your mask away. It’ll only draw attention. It’s a bit cold, but without your shirt, you can just look like a jogger.

He bagged the mask and shirt both and started running, sticking to sidewalks whenever he could.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Page 37

“Officer Mallory... say something. Nod if you can hear me. Blink if you can...”


“Is he...? He’s not... You--you’d know, right?”

He’s not dead yet,’ said Garovel. ‘But he’s probably not going to make it.

“You can’t... do anything? Nothing...?”

I’m sorry.

Hector closed his eyes and sighed. “I failed to save him...?”

‘We failed, Hector.’ The sirens were loud enough to fill the room. ‘And if you don’t run right now, our failures will only increase.

He ran. Out the back, through the rear yard, and over the fence. He cut between houses to avoid the street.

You should take your shirt off.’

He stopped behind the corner of a stuccoed house. He looked down at his shirt, riddled with bullet holes and soaked in blood. “This is...” He sighed. “This is going to become a thing, isn’t it...?”


“B-but... uh... I’m not sure... a black guy running shirtless through this neighborhood will, uh... go over so well...”

Better than a black guy running through the neighborhood covered in blood. From a crime scene, might I add.

“But I... I don’t know if... uh...”

This is not the time to be shy, Hector.

“You say that like it’s supposed to make a difference...”

Take off the damn shirt!

He pulled it off. And as he looked at the wet cloth, he realized his hands were trembling. Arms, too, even all the way into his chest. It was faint, hardly even noticeable unless he was standing still, but there it was.

Ah. Your body’s gone into shock. I tried to suppress the effects, but this is to be expected.

“What...? Why am I in shock...?”

Page 36

Hector was abruptly thankful that his embarrassed face was hidden and decided to do what came naturally to him. He said nothing.

“Well--" Mallory paused for a grimace. “--Thanks for your help, though I can’t imagine why you did it.”

Ask him who sent these men.

“Wh-who sent these men to kill you?”

Mallory squinted. “How old are you? You sound like a kid.” At Hector’s silence, he said, “Rofal. Joseph Rofal.”

“Because you’re testifying in court a-against him?”

“Not against him. His little shit stain of a nephew. I was there. I saw him murder that boy. No more than ten years old. Dropped a cinderblock on top of the kid’s head. And then laughed. Fuckin’ little bastard--” He broke off for a pained cringe and began coughing. His skin had grown pale. Sweat covered his face. “And now I’m dying ‘cuz of that little fuck? I should’ve just... sh-should’ve just shot that piece of... stupid piece of shit...” The dreary look in his eyes seemed to suggest he had forgotten what he was saying. Or that he no longer cared.

Ask him about his family.

“Your family,” said Hector. “Do you... do you think they could be in danger, too?”

Mallory just sat there, breathing slowly and staring vacantly at the yellow cabinets in front of him. Sirens in the distance told Hector it was about time to leave.

“Officer Mallory, y-your family... I can help.”

I think you should go, Hector.

But we need him to tell us...

I don’t think he can hear you.

Blood dripped from the corner of the officer’s mouth.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Page 35

He stomped the door down and found Mallory crouched behind the kitchen’s island, clutching his side with one arm, trying to reload his service weapon with the other, and staring right back at Hector. A ponytailed gunman was in the hall, and Hector walked straight toward him. A bullet ripped through the mask and pierced his neck. Hector yanked the man’s gun away and smashed him in the face with it. A few teeth flew from his mouth and hit the hardwood floor as he did.

A gunshot made him run back into the kitchen. The last thug was slumped in the other doorway, his head blown open and bleeding all over the tile. Officer Mallory took a ragged breath and looked at Hector, doubtless wanting to ask the obvious question, but he pulled out a cellphone instead and dialed. He tried to stand but slid back down against the counter, bleeding nearly as much as the dead man.

“I’m going to assume--guh--that you didn’t come here to kill me,” said the officer. He put the phone to his ear. “Yeah, I need an ambulance.” Giving his address and eyeing Hector, he added, “And there’s someone else here in even worse shape than me... I think.”

He tried to speak, but the bullet in his larynx made it impossible. Garovel invoked the recovery. None of his wounds hurt, but Hector could feel flesh contracting and expanding, fractured bones shivering as they rejoined, and bullets getting pushed out of his body and clattering to the floor.

“Who are you?” the officer finally asked.

What will you tell him?’ said Garovel.

Page 34

“How fast--” He paused to slide his mask off his face. “--Exactly how fast am I, anyway?” As he stood still, he could feel his own heart pounding faster than it ever had in his entire life.

Garovel shrugged. ‘How fast can your body run without tearing itself apart?

He scratched his head and returned with a wet hand. He wiped the sweat on his shirt, but it was similarly soaked. He wiped it on his pants instead.

Officer Mallory is in his house. You should keep your distance until--’ Garovel stopped when they both saw a black van pull up in front of the house. Five men stepped out. Two started for the front door, three circled around back. ‘You’d better put your mask back on.


Dashing up to the house, he saw them knocking on the door.

Deal with the ones in the back first.


He snuck along the neighbor’s fence and leapt over into the backyard. The three of them noticed him immediately and stiffened their postures, hands in their coats.

“Who the fuck are you?” said the nearest one, square-jawed and younger than the others. “What’s with the fucking mask?”

“Uh... I-I heard you had some leaky pipes?”

“Get outta here before we--”

You don’t have time to chat.’ Garovel touched his shoulder, and that familiar pain flashed through his body. ‘Go.

He rushed the youngest guy, who pulled a gun, but Hector flattened him before he could fire. The man stayed down. The other two pulled, and Hector took two in the chest before reaching the next man, slugging him in the face, and kicking his gun away from him. The last one fired five more times, three of which missed Hector completely, and went down with a kick to the testicles and an elbow to the forehead.

Gunfire erupted from inside the house.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Page 33

It was so easy to run, as if it required no effort, as if it was more natural to run than to walk. Someone stepped out from a shop in front of him, and he swiped past the flaps of their coat. He slowed down a little to ensure he had control, and when the turn came up, he went right.

I reached the turn,’ he told Garovel.

Keep going straight until you see the ramp onto the highway and take it.

People were becoming a blur, so he slowed his pace again. A crowd filled the sidewalk up ahead. Hector could see himself nearly keeping pace with the cars, so he ran into the street. Striding the white lines between lanes and not feeling winded in the slightest, he couldn’t help laughing inside his mask as he searched for a road speed sign. He saw one that said “40 km/h.”

Once he boarded the highway, however, the cars began speeding past him again. He pushed his legs as hard as he could, and he was sure that he was running much faster than he had been previously, but the cars still roared by, and he stuck to the shoulder of the road. The next sign he saw said “110 km/h.”

Still, after what must have been at least half an hour of running, he exited the highway, per Garovel’s instructions, and found himself breathing heavily but not gasping. He figured his blood still needed all the extra air, but his muscles didn’t hurt or feel tired in the slightest.

He soon arrived in a quieter neighborhood. He could see the police car parked in a driveway up the street. When he saw the reaper approaching, he slowed to a walk.

Page 32

Garovel just laughed. ‘How’s the soreness, by the way?

He groaned a little. ‘Incredibly painful... but... I’m starting to get used to it... I guess.

It’ll probably get a lot worse after today.


They both spotted a police car exiting the station’s side garage, a uniformed officer in the driver’s seat.

There he is,’ said Garovel, clutching Hector’s shoulder. ‘Get ready. I’ll follow him and give you directions. When I tell you, start running as fast as you can.

Hector felt a blaze of vigor run through him. The soreness vanished, and he breathed deep. “Whoa...!” He could feel his muscles pulsing, his blood rushing, and a surge of so much energy that he thought he might go insane if he didn’t expel it.

You might not need it, but put your mask on just in case. And make sure you don’t run into anyone. That’s more important than catching up to us.

He slid the welding mask over his face. He had to pull up the small, black visor in order to see at all. The rectangular slit of glass bore a few scratches but not enough to obstruct his vision.

The police car was pulling away. Garovel flew after it, and Hector waited. They fell out of sight, and he kept waiting. Passersby gave him uncomfortable looks as he stood there in his mask, trembling with anticipation.

Move straight ahead five blocks and turn right. Tell me when you’ve reached it.

Hector bolted forward. His legs bounded over the pavement with more force than he expected, but he could tell that he wasn’t even breaching his potential yet. He broadly weaved between pedestrians, still picking up momentum, but when he saw an intersection full of passing vehicles, he realized he wouldn’t be able to stop in time. So he didn’t. He ran into traffic. A white town car blared its horn at him as he leapt clear over its roof and landed still running down the sidewalk.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Page 31

He stuffed the black welding mask into his bag and left the campus on foot. He asked Garovel for directions and received them, discovering it was no short journey; but in time, he arrived and the reaper met up with him on the street corner in front of the station.

Hector took a seat on a wood-and-stone bench. ‘So, uh... have you learned anything else about him?

He doesn’t get along with his partner or any of his fellow officers here. Everyone seems to think he’s an asshole.

Is he?

Maybe. I’ve only known him since this afternoon.

I guess it doesn’t matter much...

He appears to have a daughter. Unlike him, she’s a brunette and wears glasses. She looks very young, though the photo on his desk could be several years old by now. No information on the mother, yet.

Wow... you’re observant...

You’re easily impressed. It’s not much to go on. Mallory doesn’t seem to have an active case, at the moment. I only saw him doing follow-up paperwork, but I did discover that he’s scheduled to appear in court in a few days.

For what?

Not sure, but there aren’t many things that cops go to court for. If he were being prosecuted for something serious, I doubt he would still be allowed to come to work. Could be they just bumped him off active duty, but I’d guess he’s appearing as an expert witness.

So... someone wants to kill him before he testifies?

Seems likely. But then, killing a cop right before his court date isn’t exactly easy to cover up. If I’m right, then someone’s either very stupid or...

Very influential.

Yeah.’ Garovel looked at Hector and smirked. ‘Heh.

What’re you smiling about?

Y’know, for someone dumb enough to kill himself, you’re smarter than I thought.

Hector’s face went flat. ‘Fuck you, too, Skeletor.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Page 30

A few minutes before the final bell, he slipped out of class. He could hear the instructor hollering at him for leaving early but ignored it and made his way down to the basement level. He was hoping he could get into the carpentry room before any of the club members arrived, but he ended up waiting for its last class to empty. He took to the corner, trying to be invisible, which was surprisingly easy with so many students, and when he spotted the welding mask that someone had yet to return to the storage rack, he gathered himself and reached out. He grabbed it, but so did someone else.

“Hey, what the--? Let go--Hector?”

Hector cringed, realizing it was Lance Alexander, treasurer of the carpentry club and one of the people he’d been trying to avoid.

“What are you doing here, Hector? Don’t tell me you want to rejoin the club.”

“No,” he said, pulling the mask away from Lance. “I just... need to borrow this for a while.”

“No one’s allowed to take the equipment out of the classroom.”

“I’ll bring it back.”

“That’s not the problem.” Lance was bigger than Hector, bigger than most people, and no small measure of intimidating, but at that moment, Hector had every reason in the world to not give a damn about what he had to say.

“Report me, then.” He fled without waiting for Lance’s response.

Hector knew Lance wasn’t a bad guy. He knew Lance was just following the rules, and he knew that this would probably earn him detention for a week or two, but he didn’t see a way around it. Perhaps the drama club had masks he could borrow, but he didn’t actually know where the drama club met; and seeing as the school didn’t even have its own auditorium, he figured it wouldn't be an easy place to reach.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Page 29 -- IV.

Chapter Four: ‘Embolden thy steeled heart...’
Click to display entire chapter at once -- (mobile link)

Hector shifted at his desk. ‘Uh... okay... So what do I do?



I’m thinking. He looks perfectly healthy, so it’s probably not illness. I can see the aura around him--Officer Mallory, by the way--but the danger doesn’t seem to be immediate. He IS in the middle of a police station, after all. I suspect the exact nature of the threat won’t become apparent until he leaves the building.

You want me go to the police station right now?

It looks like his shift doesn’t end for a few hours. You have time. Head down here after school.

Are you sure...? I mean, it’s a man’s life at stake... and I really don’t mind skipping class...

I’ll let you know if the situation changes. In the mean time, you should probably take steps to conceal your identity. If you end up having to take a bullet for this man, it’d be best if he doesn’t see your face when you shrug it off.

O-okay, but... I don’t exactly have a mask or... anything...

Figure it out. Borrow something from a store along the way, if you have to.

I don’t think that’s borrowing...

If you can’t find a mask in time, then. Well. You’re just going to have to risk it. Obviously, concealing your identity is not more important than a person’s life.

Hector paused a moment, and then quietly sighed. ‘I... think I know where I can borrow one...


It, uh, it might look really weird, though...

Oh. Well. Forget it, then. We can’t have you looking weird.

You don’t have to be mean...

It’s tough love, Hector. Tough love.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Page 28

“Thank you, Jeremy. That was very informative and tedious. You can take your seat, now.”

Jeremy took his seat.

Mr. Cormac stood and addressed the class. “Lovely. Which one of you delightful curs would like to bore us with your historical insights next? Hector Goffe, how about you?”

Hector shook his head furiously and tried to shrink into his desk.

“Oh come on. You did the assignment, didn’t you?”

Of course he hadn’t. He’d planned on being dead for today’s class. In fact, not having to do any of his homework had provided all the more motivation to kill himself. And now that he thought about it, he wasn’t sure if he would still be able to pass any of his classes. He wasn’t sure if he should care, either.

At length, the instructor grew tired of Hector’s silence and moved on.

Hector was just waiting for the day to end. After a while, he decided to try the reaper. ‘Um... Garovel?


He smiled faintly. ‘Are you... er... Have you learned anything, yet?

The case seems to be proceeding well. Better than I expected, in fact. I thought they would only be able to get him for attempted murder of the woman you saved, but they found evidence in his apartment which implicates him in the murders he committed previously as well.

That’s good.

Yes. Though, apparently you crushed the man’s windpipe.

Oh shit... did... He’s not dead, is he? I wasn’t trying to--

No, he’s alive. Somehow. I should’ve given you time to familiarize yourself with that level of strength.

If you’d done that, then... we might not have made it to her in time...

You make a fair point. By the way, her condition is good... Wait a minute.

Hector looked around the classroom, as if it would somehow help. ‘Garovel?


What’s wrong?

One of the police officers. I see the aura of death around him.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Page 27

At length, Garovel relented. ‘Well, have it your way.

When Hector finally looked up again, hoping the red in his face was gone, he saw the aftermath of the food fight. Several students were cleaning up the mess under the supervision of teachers and custodians. Even after the bell rang, they were made to keep cleaning.

I’m going to go check on a few things while you’re in class,’ said Garovel. ‘I’ll meet up with you again after school, potentially with a new task, so be ready.

Hector felt himself panicking slightly. ‘Ah--um... where are you going?

The police station, among other places. I’d like to follow up on our serial killer’s case, make sure there aren’t any problems.

Um... please... um...


Please... don’t leave me alone...

Garovel paused for an extremely toothy smile. He tapped Hector on the head with the butt of his scythe. ‘Don’t you remember? When you talk to me in your head, I’ll hear you no matter where I am. So don’t frown like that. You understand? You’re never alone, Hector. Not anymore.

He nodded uncertainly.

Unless you want to be alone, that is. Then just don’t think at me.


Throngs of students filed past him as he watched Garovel disappear through the wall’s steely blue-and-white tile. He took a breath and proceeded to his history class.

As he sat and listened to the mousy Jeremy Voller attempting to give a report about the recent history of the Crown, Hector began to wonder why he even bothered coming back to school. He could see the instructor growing more impatient with Jeremy's every redundant word. Mr. Cormac had a reputation for candidness that made most of the students like him, and Hector might have been included in that group if he didn’t find all teachers inherently frightening.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Page 26

What was that about?’ Garovel asked, floating closer. ‘You can’t even talk to a girl? You do remember only needing one hand to subdue a serial killer, right? Did that do nothing for your self-esteem?

No, that’s not what that was. She’s... I mean... I don’t... It’s because she’s from the carpentry club and... I...

Hmm? You have a history with her?

Hector tilted his brow at the reaper. ‘You... don’t already know?

Garovel merely shook his head.

I thought you knew everything about me...

I occasionally followed you around a bit over the course of seven months. I don’t know your entire life story.

R-right...’ Hector occupied himself with the stain on his shirt. The slash of red reminded him of the bloodied shirt he trashed the night before.

So? Who is she to you, then?

He glanced in the direction she had gone and saw her eating with a bunch of other students. ‘I was almost part of that group,’ he said. ‘We were... we were almost friends, I guess...

Garovel followed him back to his table, phasing through a passing lacrosse player. ‘I take it things didn’t end very well.

Hector didn’t answer.

Tell me what happened.

He sighed and grabbed his fork. ‘Why?

Do you remember what I said before? You would help me, and I would help you.

Thanks, but... there’s nothing to help with...

Even so, I’d like to know more about you.

A wash of gratitude ran through him like a shiver, and Hector hid his face downward, as if his food could be so utterly fascinating. For an incredible moment, he thought he might actually cry, which only made him flush with embarrassment. He wished he could tell Garovel how much those words just now had meant to him, but he just couldn’t. He didn’t know what was stopping him, and he hated whatever it was, but he just couldn’t.