The car drove off into the darkness, it's captive secured in the back, tied and trapped between two hulking thugs. In the front sat the driver, and in the passengers seat, their leader. The car did not speed, and obeyed all traffic signs. They were ruthless, but cautious. No one noticed them on the street.
Rose kept her mouth shut, watched the streets pass by, the occasional car moving beside them. She tried not to cry, to let herself fall into the darkness of the moment. Instead, she puzzled in her mind what had just happened. Where had he gone? Had he turned invisible upon his death? Her terror was nearly palpable, so she fought to dispel it.
Her voice cracked when she spoke.
“May I have a cigarette?”
The two thugs turned to her in disbelief, and the beast named Wilkes raised his pistol to hit her. The dapper criminal in the front seat stayed his hand.
“Let her smoke, Wilkes.”
Wilkes growled, reaching into his jacket pocket for a pack of smokes, dealing one out and holding it to her mouth. She had to lean forward to take it, and he pulled the pack just out of reach of her lips. His companion chuckled.
With laughter on his tongue, their leader said, “Now, boys, there's no need to be rude. The young lady's had a rough night, I'm sure, having killed several men and eluding us through the tunnels.”
Wilkes looked her over, and grumbled aloud, “How'd you do it?”
Looking at him questioningly, Rose shook her head.
Wilkes grabbed her by the chin, crushing her face in a big paw, turning her to look at him.
“How'd you kill Joey and the others?”
She didn't say anything, just stared with hatred into his black silk mask. The feeling was good. It swept away the terror, let her see the world with new eyes. She looked into his face, and if she could have spit she would have. He squeezed harder for an instant, and then let her go.
She looked at him defiantly as he put the pack of cigarettes away. How different this masked man was from the other she had encountered tonight. They were like polar opposites, positive and negative, both deadly but on the vast edges of the spectrum.
The dapper man in the front reached back, holding a gold-filtered cigarette to her lips.
“Light it for her, will you, Wilkes?”
Wilkes opened his lighter and flicked it on.
“I oughta burn her face off with it. Make her talk.”
She leaned back from the flame, the gold-filtered cigarette still in her mouth.
“Just light it, Wilkes. She'll talk soon enough.”
Wilkes moved the flame closer to her face menacingly, but she turned her head, dipping the tip of the cigarette into the fire, inhaling the smoke deeply, and then leaning back, exhaling slowly through her mouth.
“You won't be so tough soon, cookie”, whispered Wilkes.
The dapper man chuckled, and Wilkes sat back as she smoked.
The car moved through the silent streets like a shark through icy waters, until they reached their destination, a parking garage under a nondescript building in the center of the city. Pulling into an empty spot, the driver turned off the headlights, but left the car idling.
Wilkes opened his door, as did the leader in the red mask. Stepping out, the leader turned to Wilkes and motioned him to get the girl. Wilkes was not gentle taking her from the car, slinging her over his shoulder and walking towards the service elevator that led up, into the building where Rose's fate would be sealed. He slapped her bottom, and laughed as he walked, threatening humiliation as well as death. She grimaced at his touch.
They waited merely a moment for the elevator to arrive, and when they stepped into the brightly lit box, Wilkes dropped her to the floor like a sack of potatoes so that the wind was knocked out of her and she hit her head on the rear wall.
Kicking her feet out of the way, he said, “Sorry about that. Really.”
The dapper man produced a key, put it into the lock that would set the elevator on it's route and punched the 15th floor. Slowly the doors began to close, and there was the sound of a car horn being pressed three times, in quick harsh succession. The dapper man, put his hand between the doors, stopping them from closing.
Turning to Wilkes, he said simply, “Go check that out.”
Wilkes looked at Rose with contempt, kicking her in the thigh as he walked out the elevator.
The doors closed, and they began to ascend.
Wilkes walked to the car, which was the only one running in the garage. The driver was still behind the wheel, staring off into the darkness, paying no attention to Wilkes as he approached.
“Hey,what's the idea of running the horn?”, Wilkes called, but the driver paid no attention.
As he got to the car, he rapped his knuckles on the windshield angrily.
The driver didn't move. It was obvious, even to Wilkes, why he didn't. His face, having been crushed three times into the steering wheel (and subsequently into the horn) with enough force to crush his skull, was covered in blood that had turned his mask wet, dripping crimson onto his dark suit. Wilkes leapt back, reaching instinctively for his gun.
He turned slowly, searching for the culprit, but there was no one in the garage besides himself and the dead man.
“Where's the girl?”
Wilkes spun, firing a shot at the voice, but it dug into the wall. There was no one there.
“Where are you?”, Wilkes whispered.
Wilkes spun again, firing twice, once into the side of a car, and again into a pillar down the way. He began backing towards the elevator.
“Where did you take her?”
Wilkes fired again, turned to run to the elevator, and found himself staring into the muzzle of a .45, held in the steady hand of the Black Mask. The Mask dipped his pistol with lightning speed, letting off a shot that tore the pistol and three fingers from Wilkes hand, and had it pointing back at his face before Wilkes hit the ground.
Wilkes, who believed he was the toughest, most ruthless man in the city, stared into the obsidian black armor of the man who, he knew in that instant, was going to end his miserable life, and began to keen wildly.
The Mask stepped forward, and growled with anger, “The girl! Where did you take her?”
“F-f-fifteen. The fifteenth floor!”, screamed Wilkes, just as the bullet entered his brain through his left eye, exiting along with the offending organ through the back of his head.
The Black Mask was already moving before the body hit the floor.
While Wilkes was losing his hand, the dapper leader was pulling Rose to her feet as they neared the 15th floor. He held her steady while she got her balance, and then swept her into his arms so he could carry her through the hallway when the doors opened like a groom hoisting his bride over the threshold on their wedding night.
The doors opened onto an opulent hallway of dark wood and fine tapestried carpet. Three men moved forward, each wearing the black hoods of subordinates. The leader let one of them take his burden.
He dusted his hands on his jacket, saying “Take her to the room while I speak with the Professor” as he moved down the hallway in the opposite direction. The thug, hefted her for a moment, whistling with appreciation as he looked at her, and then moved past a series of rooms until they came to a door that was a deep, richly carved oak. The carving was a bacchanalia of old, with women and men cavorting on a field, but all of the men were devils with huge wings, and all of the women seemed to be screaming in terror. He opened the door, and Rose fought the urge to scream, herself.
The dapper man in the red mask stood before the Professor, who sat in a rich, high-backed chair, listening to his tale. When he was finished, he waited for his orders, but the Professor sat in silence for a moment.
“It's good that you found both of the devices, Harris.”, he finally said, in his deep-voiced tone.
Harris, the man in the red mask, nodded his appreciation for the compliment.
“You're sure that this woman killed your men, though? It seems unlikely to me that one person could do such damage.”
Harris cleared his throat before answering.
“Sir, I found her by the body of two of them. It looks like she snuck up on one, and killed the driver while he was trying to run her down. She was still clutching the pistol in her hand.”
He reached into his jacket, producing the offending weapon.
The Professor looked at the .45 he held, and then adjusted his glasses.
The Professor contemplated this for a moment.
“And you say she's beautiful?”
Harris smiled beneath the mask again.
“She's exquisite, sir. Her hair is like fire, and her form is stunning.”
The Professor licked his dry lips.
“I want to...speak to the woman. Go to the chamber and wait for me there. I'll be along in a moment.”
Harris, nodding, put the automatic back in his jacket as he moved to the door.
The young leader turned back to the Professor.
“May I have the devices?”
Harris smiled beneath his mask, and removed the two identical cylinders, now held together in a protective case, from his pocket.
“It's a shame about Dr. Sturgeon. He truly was a brilliant colleague.”
Harris placed the case on a table, and turned to the door.
“He never should have run, sir. It was foolish of him to think he could escape.”
Opening the door, Harris stepped into the hallway, closing the door behind him.
In the room, Rose had been strapped into a device very similar to a dentists chair, if a dentists chair had restraints. Beside the chair was a small steel table lined with instruments of medical torture that gleamed in the stark lights. In the center of the room was a drain in the floor, and along one wall were jars of...
She clamped her eyes shut, trying not to see but the image was embedded in her mind.
In those jars were pieces of women, mostly heads, staring lifelessly in horror at her, floating in light blue fluid. In others were entire reproductive systems, breasts still attached to the front ribcage of the victim...and worse.
Rose knew this was her fate.
To be dissected alive.