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Red Versus Blue - Polarizing Society

Please don't take the use of colours in this post as being anything related to the symbolism of political party colours, because that's not what it relates to. Colours are symbols. Ambiguous and can literally mean and be interpreted as anything.  Problems always arise when you worship the symbol more so than what it stands for. In these times, polarization refers to being bounced around between diametrically opposed symbols, via colours. So these colours are not a reference to party politics. Here's something quite interesting, and its certainly indicative of a much larger and more complex challenge in society. On the morning of the Uvalde school attack in the United States, in my own community in Regent Park in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and about two to three hours before the actual time of the attack, several people in my community, many of whom I refer to simply as a cult, began harassing me excessively. This started in the wee hours of the morning of 24th of May of this

The First Of Three For Halloween Horror: The Comic (The Halloween Horror And Gore Version)

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead (or undead), or actual events is purely coincidental.

This is the first of three short stories I'm writing for Halloween or better known in my fictional universe as Hallow's Eve. Each of these stories will take place using the characters from one of my other creative properties as a foundation for familiarity with my readers. In some cases, the mythos surrounding those characters may be altered or changed in some way to fit the story, though that does not affect their current state of being in other stories. These stories all three will be self contained horror/fantasy and have no bearing on the canon of their respective characters.

Be warned. I won't be holding back anything when it comes to writing these stories, so be prepared for a gruesome ride in at least one of them, and horrific situations in all of them.

Warning: This story contains adult situations including sex, violence and substance/narcotics use. Viewer discretion is very much advised.

Ken sat in the donut shop, wearing his mask like any good citizen would be during a pandemic. His toque lay neatly on the table beside a half cup of coffee. The coffee had cooled enough that the cream had begun to congeal and form concentric swirls on the top layer of its surface. Beside the cup lay a spoon, a drop of dried coffee and sugar gluing it weakly to the surface of the table. Beside it a double sided napkin tray sat, one side empty and in need of refilling.

The scene was similar at the other twelve tables spread throughout the coffee shop which had been a staple of the small northern town of Cooper Falls in northern Ontario, Canada. The daily ritual, even amid the pandemic, remained a local gathering at the coffee shop by many of the town's regulars. They'd arrive for a cup, there to discuss the latest news and local gossip.

The town was a bit of a tourist stop as it was often called the cottage corridor. Many travellers from the southern cities of the province would make their way through Cooper Falls on their way into cottage country for it was the last stop for food, booze and supplies along the trip.

On this particular morning Ken had observed a few such travellers by ten in the AM. Early birds as he'd call them for the fact that in order for them to have arrived this early they'd have likely left the big city of Toronto at six. Many did so to avoid traffic, with most arriving on Thursday morning to avoid the weekend rush. They tended to stick out like a haystack in a field and to most locals they were difficult to miss. Some were unknown to the town, new families as they were often called, having recently bought into the cottage market, while others were very familiar, having owned their cottages for several generations and having been staples to the local economy. Old timers as they were. A part of the local tradition and town, despite having addresses elsewhere in the province or country.

On this particular day Ken had arrived at 5:30 AM to help Colleen open the shop. Not that he was an employee but rather part of a dying breed of gentiles and a widower who'd had his eyes Colleen for some time. She'd been a part of a lengthy divorce which saw her legally awarded the coffee shop and a local cottage she'd shared with her former husband. Through it all she'd remained a dedicated champ, showing up every day to make sure the coffee was ready and hot by the time the doors opened at 6 AM and not leaving until 6 at night. After the divorce Cooper Falls adopted her as one of their own, having proven her dedication to the town and its people.

She'd known of Ken's admiring glances for some time but seldom admitted to such awareness. She'd kept much of her personal life away from the shop and had difficulty letting others in, especially after her divorce. Still, Ken hadn't given up for the two years since her final court date and had been there nearly every morning to help her open. She considered everything and vowed that she'd one day soon open that door to him and him alone. Since having made that silent commitment she'd become visibly comfortable with his company. During a quiet moment she'd walked over to his table with a fresh pot of java and filled his half cup to the brim.

"Thank you honey." Ken folded his copy of the Cooper Falls Daily, and placed it on the table beside him.

"Not a problem sugar." she replied with the slightest hint of a smile.

"Why don't you sit down for a minute. Take a load off those feet and I'll keep you company." Ken invited her.

"It looks like we hit the 9:30 AM lull a bit early. There's only a small handful of patrons in here. Sure thing. So what's in the news?" she asked him, returning the fresh pot of coffee to the warmer and returning to his table and adjusting her mask.

"Well, it looks like thanks to this pandemic its going to be a little quiet around here. Seems that most people are staying in the city this year for Thanksgiving and Halloween. We might have to tighten the budget strings a bit but I'm sure we'll get through." Ken assured her.

"We've hit rough patches before and we're still here. We just have to keep on keeping on. Not difficult with you around to help." she flirted a little.

"That we will certainly. Speaking of, there was a story about the recent slew of cottage break-ins. Done very professionally from what Constable Kobachek said. He's advised us to keep our eyes peeled and to report any suspicious activity." Ken tapped the folded newspaper.

"That won't help our situation any, thieves scaring the good law abiding folk away from their cottages but I guess the lure of family valuable heirlooms and treasures kept at cottages is just too much for any of these thieves to turn down." Colleen considered the implications.

"Exactly what I was thinking. You remember old Fanny Wilson don't you? She passed away a few years back." Ken asked.

"That sweet old lady. Who couldn't remember her? She was the sunshine in a snowstorm that one." Colleen recalled.

"Well back in the day, she was married to an artist. Back in the 1930s, when radio and movies were just blossoming and comics were a new kind of magazine. You see, he did one of the very first comic book series. Not quite as well known as Superman, Spiderman or Batman but well known nonetheless and somewhat of an underground hero. Not only that, but one of the first woman superheroes ever." Ken told her.

"You don't mean that one with the big wings... the one that looks like a moth?" Colleen asked him.

"A butterfly. She was called Butterfly Dragon. A real old story that one, and it was an underground hit. Rumour has it that it was the first comic ever to sell more than a hundred thousand copies. Back in those days, that was quite a feat. Especially considering she was a Chinese immigrant into Canada. Just like Fanny." Ken told her.

"Didn't she have the sidekicks too?" Colleen asked.

"Yes it turns out that she did. They weren't sidekicks, but other heroes. Her best friends actually. The Eclipse, was a French Canadian woman with a little bit of Ukrainian thrown in for good measure. The other, Night Style was a bit of British and German. A smart one she was. She was the scientist that gave them the secret formula to turn them into superheroes. Well as it turns out Fanny's husband created all of that and though he didn't get rich from it, he poured his heart and soul into it and into her just as much if not more. The two greatest loves in his life, though he put Fanny first always." Ken told her.

"And he lived around here with Fanny?" Colleen confirmed.

"No. He'd died before Fanny moved here to retire. You see, working in media publishing was a cut throat business. Especially back then. Struggling to sell a few copies here and there in order to pay your bills and keep the whole thing going, not to mention the organized crime stealing his work. Printing their own runs and selling them without a cent going to him or his publishers. He did everything he could to give Fanny a good life, but in the end the stress caught up with him and he died." Ken told her.

"Amazing the things you learn about the people you never truly knew." Colleen told him.

"Yeah, Fanny was a great woman. She really loved him. Never married again. Word is that after he died, organized crime tried to take the rights to his creative property from her. They even tried to have his name stricken from the records. Almost like they were trying to erase him and steal everything from him. The case ended up making it into the news." Ken remained calm as he told her the story.

"Really? Did she ever win against them?" Colleen asked Ken, observing that a few of the coffee shop patrons were intensely interested in the story.

"She didn't win so much as those criminals defaulted. They failed to show up to court. You see, someone else had taken a personal dislike to these criminals and had erased them. All of them, including their lawyers too. It was like they just vanished from the face of the Earth." Ken spoke with an intensity and presence.

"Well that's good to hear that those scoundrels got what they deserved. So what happened to Fanny after that?" Colleen asked suddenly enamoured by the story.

"Well as it turns out, the publicity from the case resulted in a resurgence in demand for the stories. A new generation of comic book fans had become very interested and Fanny authorized a reprinting of the entire series. All sixty six comics. As it turned out that decision was brilliant on her part, because a long time book collector had retained his original copies of the very first issue of The Butterfly Dragon. It seems that the renewed interest in the comic spurred this man who was a self made multi-millionaire to donate ten million dollars to charity in the name of Fanny's deceased husband, and he gifted her the original first copy of the comic." Ken became more focused as he spoke.

"I'll be. So sad for that woman's loss but it sounds like someone was looking after her. So what happened to that comic?" Colleen asked, wiping a tear from her eye.

"Well, rumour has it she hid it in her cottage as it was never found. Comic book experts the world over paid to have a private investigator find the comic. He worked closely with Constable Kobachek and went over the property inch by inch but found nothing. Some say though that she made a secret hiding place for the comic inside the cottage itself. Oddly enough, the cottage hasn't sold and has remained unoccupied since she died." Ken spoke dramatizing the story slightly as he told it.

"I bet that comic book must be worth a fortune." Colleen speculated.

"You betcha. The private investigator had it pegged at a value of at least five million dollars. However, two years ago, a damaged copy of the first run of the issue sold for over eight million dollars. A damaged copy. For a pristine copy signed by Fanny's husband himself, we're thinking its worth twelve million. Maybe more." Ken assured her as he took a sip of his coffee.

"Wow. More than enough money for someone to retire." Colleen thought about it.

"...comfortably so. That's enough money to buy your way out of every problem and payment for life. Maybe the new owners will find it?" Ken smiled shaking his head.

"I thought you said its unoccupied?" Colleen asked.

"It is. However it recently sold to a family in Toronto. They haven't arrived yet to clean and ready the place however its only a matter of time before they do." Ken assured her.

"Imagine that a nice ending for a happy family and their children. The treasures there are in this world for the worthy." Colleen smiled and fanned herself with her hand.

"So nice talking with you Colleen. You're this man's reason to get up in the morning. I've got to get back to my shack and get to work on that new table for the shop here. You have yourself a wonderful day." Ken stood ready to take his used cup and spoon to the counter for Colleen.

"You leave that. I'll get it. You're already doing enough as it is, and we have to start sharing the load." Colleen tapped his bottom gently.

"How could any man turn down an offer like that. I'll see you tomorrow morning, honey." Ken walked over to the door.

"By for now. Looking forward to tomorrow." Colleen smiled and waved to him as he left the shop.

He walked over to his pickup truck as he fished through his pocket for the key. He then opened the door, took to the driver's seat, started it and drove away leaving Colleen to the rest of her day.

In the far corner of the coffee shop, two young men sat speaking in hushed tones.

"Do you think that story was real?" asked Terence.

"Do you?" asked Sam.

"I don't know, twelve million is a lot of money. One run like that and we'd be set for life." Terence reminded Sam.

"We couldn't sell it on the open market. We'd have to find a buyer and you know what that means. We'd be taking a severe cut to what we could ask for. We could get four, maybe five million at most." Sam argued.

"That's enough for the seven of us. Five mil divided seven ways is a lot of money each." Terence responded.

"How much?" Sam asked him.

"I don't know, but more than we have right now hittin' these shacks for nothing but silverware and jewelry. We could make some real money. If we don't try it before that family shows up we could be missing out on a looot of money." Terence pushed his friend.

"How do we even find the place?" Sam asked.

"I'll call Chuck and Seb and have them show up with the rest at closing time. With the pandemic nobody will suspect a thing, seeing a bunch of us wearing masks. We'll kidnap the lady and have her show us where it is. We'll dump her there." Terence told Sam of his impromptu plan.

"You mean kill her?" Sam confirmed.

"No man. We'll just knock her out. Beat her up a little. Leave her inside." Terence assured him.

"You'd better be right 'cause we're getting into some pretty serious shit here now. Kidnapping? If we get caught that's time in for sure. We're talking years." Sam reminded him.

"So we don't get caught. Think of all the crack cocaine you could buy with five million dollars. We'd be the life of the party, not to mention we could buy a place to do it all the time. Nobody could say shit to us." Terence laughed thinking about it.

"What if her loverboy there shows up again at closing time? He looks pretty big." Sam asked, fleshing out their plan.

"You know Seb. He's like a martial arts MMA guy. He can handle anything not to mention my karate training. I've got a blue belt you know." Terence reminded him.

"That's bullshit, besides, there's no such thing as a blue belt, dipshit. You? Definitely not. Seb? Yeah, he's a big guy at two hundred and fifty, maybe three hundred pounds, and he's got some time in, so he's tough. I heard he even worked security for a mafia guy before he became involved with crack. Seb can handle himself. You, I don't think so. If Seb's in, I'm in." Sam agreed.

"I'll get Seb for sure. Chuck too. Bobby as well. That will be enough to handle anything that comes at us. I mean we're just going to an empty cottage in the middle of nowhere to get a comic book and drop off an unconscious dumb waitress." Terence told him the plan.

"Alright. You make the calls. I'll wait here and keep watch. When you get back, we'll go back to the hotel room and wait for closing time. We'll meet up with the others before we go and hit the place, get the girl, go to the cottage, knock her out and get our comic book." Sam agreed once again.

"You better not screw me over, Sam. Be here when I get back." Terence agreed, walking over to the payphone just outside of the coffee shop.

Terence left the table leaving Sam to finish his coffee and donut. Terence was gone for twenty minutes before he returned to the table.

"What took you so long?" Sam asked.

"I had to call a few people. Explain the plan." Terence assured him.

"You had some didn't you. Without me? I can smell it on you." Sam became angry.

"Fuck you! I did not! Well... I had a little. Just one tiny rock. I paid for half of it." Terence grew shrewd.

"Like hell you did? I paid for the whole thing. You already blew all of your money last week. You've been living off me for the last five days and I'm keeping track you know." Sam reminded him.

"Look, when we get this comic, I'll pay you back and then some." Terence assured him once again.

"Alright. Lets go. And don't ask me for a cigarette. I've only got ten left and I don't want to have a nic fit tonight when we do this thing." Sam told him.

"Ya. Alright. Let's go." Terence and Sam stood and made their way out of the coffee shop, mostly unnoticed by Colleen.

They got into their stolen SUV and drove over to the motel a few kilometres away and waited in their room until 5 PM.

At 4:45 PM, Seb and three passengers pulled into the parking lot of the motel in a rusty black sedan.  Seb got out of the car, locking the door behind him.

"You assholes don't forget to lock your doors or I'll take it out on your hide." Seb ordered his passengers.

"Just try it." Chuck stood up to him.

"Just lock the door, wouldja?" said his girlfriend Jafarma.

"Clarence, you too." Seb ordered the third passenger.

"Got it." Clarence replied, walking casually around the front of the car to meet Seb.

They went as a group to the motel room and knocked on the door loudly.

"Who is it?" asked a voice from behind the door.

"Its the cops man. Open up." Seb said in his best cop voice.

"Fuck you Seb." Terence opened the door.

"A little grouchy are we? You run out of rock or something?" Seb asked him.

"We're running low. Did you manage to sell the jewelry we grabbed at that last cottage?" asked Terence.

"Did I? Not only did I sell it, but I got twice what you were wanted for it." Seb handed him a wad of cash.

"That means you got twice what you're telling us." Sam confronted him.

"Yeah, so. I made a little more. I took the risk selling it. You guys just stay here all day and smoke crack. I earned my extra part of the cash. You still get yours for doing nothing but stealin' it from that cottage." Seb took out a baggie and pulled a sizeable rock from it.

He then pulled an ornate pipe from his pocket and plopped the rock into it, lighting it with a lighter. He took a few puffs, inhaling the dense hot smoke and the lucrid smell of burning cocaine filled the room.

"Oh man! You got some! Awesome!" Terence reached for the pipe, as Seb withdrew it.

"Wait your turn." Seb demanded, handing the pipe to Jafarma first.

Jafarma took her hit and then handed it to Chuck, who then passed it to Clarence who then passed it to Sam, who finally handed it off to Terence.

"Feel better?" Seb asked them all.

"Hell yeah." Terence spoke, somewhat dazed by the sudden rush of dopamine through his system.

"Good, lets go get this job done. We'll take the SUV and pickup Bobby on the way there." Seb took charge.

They locked the motel room door and piled into the stolen SUV, driving it out to another motel where they picked up their last passenger. He had been waiting outside of his room for the last fifteen minutes and looked all the more angry for it. He strutted his walk over to the SUV and got in through the sliding door.

"Eh Bobby! How are ya! Long time no see!" Terence smiled, giving his friend a high five.

"You assholes kept me waiting. You were supposed to be here ten minutes ago! You fuckers!" Bobby fumed.

"Here, have some of this. It will calm you down." Terence passed him the pipe.

Bobby quickly accepted it, lighting it with his own lighter and taking a large drag from it.

"Feeling it now?" Terence asked.

"Yeah man. Much better." Bobby's previous anger had disappeared only to replaced by the relief provided by crack cocaine, his substance of choice.

"Good, now make sure you all have your masks. They won't suspect a thing with the pandemic and all. We're going to scope the joint and when there's no more customers, we're going in. We get the lady into the SUV and we get her to drive us to the cottage." Seb told them.

"How do we even know she drives?" Clarence asked.

"She closes the place alone. Her man doesn't come back until the morning to help her open it. So we figure she drives because she sure as hell don't live at the shop and the closest place is more than a few kilometres away." Sam reasoned.

They drove for about fifteen minutes, coming to a stop along side of the road about fifty meters away from the coffee shop.

"Alright. So here we are. There's no cars except one in the parking lot." Seb told them.

"That's her car. There's nobody else in there. Lets get her." They drove up to the parking lot and all piled out of the SUV with their masks and entered the coffee shop.

"I'm sorry but we're just closing and there's no coffee left. I have a few donuts though if you'd like?" Colleen addressed them politely as they walked in.

"No. We won't be needing your donuts. We do need you though to come with us. Don't move. Don't scream. Don't do a thing and you won't get hurt." Terence pulled a stamped metal gun from his jacket and leveled it at her.

"Please don't shoot me!" Colleen immediately and instinctively raised her arms.

"Just get in the driver's seat of that SUV and drive us to the cottage with the comic book." Sam demanded.

"What comic book? What are you talking about?" Colleen began to panic.

"Just calm down and don't play dumb. The million dollar comic book. You know, the cottage where Fanny lived?" Sam reminded her.

"Oh. That cottage. I don't know if I remember the way." Colleen responded.

"Perhaps this will help refresh your memory?" Seb pulled a gun from his pocket and held it to her head.

"Please don't shoot! Please! No!" Colleen began to weep.

"Just drive us to the place and you'll be fine. We promise." Seb assured her.

"Don't worry, I won't let them hurt you." Jafarma spoke in her best reassuring voice.

"Alright. I'll try to remember how to get there." Colleen assured them.

"I'll get the lights." Clarence went over to the light panel and turned off all the switches.

They left the store together, with Colleen in the lead. Seb and Terence kept their guns on on her and guided her to the driver's seat of the SUV. She got in and waited for them to give her the keys. Once they were all seated in the SUV, Seb handed her the keys.

"Start the vehicle and begin to drive and don't try anything funny." Seb ordered her.

She started the SUV and warmed it up before pulling it out of the parking lot and onto the main road, turning left as she drove.

"This is the same direction as the Police Station. If you have plans of driving us there, I'll kill you now and leave your body on the road. We'll drive away and they'll never catch us. Do you understand?" Seb told her.

"I understand. I have to go this way. The turn off is a few kilometres before the Police Station so we don't need to pass it." Colleen assured them, struggling to stay calm.

"Good girl. Stay good and daddy will give you a reward." Seb smiled causing the male passengers to laugh.

They drove for another fifteen minutes as the sun disappeared behind the horizon and before long, they were driving through the blackness of the cottage country night.

"This is really freaking me out." Bobby said a little uneasily.

"Give him some more rock. Break out a round for us all." Seb ordered Terence.

"Aye Aye chief." Terence pulled the baggie from his pocket and filled the pipe to capacity, passing it around.

"Do you smoke crack?" Seb asked Colleen.

"No. I've had cannabis in my life. Back when I was in college." Colleen replied uneasily.

"I didn't ask if you smoked cannabis or went to college. Fuck, what is it with women and their need to over explain everything." Seb shook his head riling another round of laughter from the men in the vehicle.

"Would you like to try some?" Seb asked Colleen.

"What?" she asked.

"Crack cocaine? Do you want some?" Seb asked her.

"No." she said abruptly.

"What if I told you that you had to have some or I'd shoot you." Seb asked her.

"I guess I'd have some." she struggled not to cry.

"That could work out in our favour man. I mean if we get caught, and she's a witness against us, if she failed a drug test, that would undermine her testimony and seeing as she's the only witness, that would really affect our chances of getting off mostly clean." Sam explained.

"What, you can't just make the woman smoke crack cocaine!" Jafarma defied them.

"Why not? Don't forget you're already a party to kidnapping. If she squeals on you, don't you want the best chance of a defence? I mean if she's found to have crack cocaine in her blood stream, we can pretty much walk." Bobby barked at her.

"Come on. Just do it." Clarence pushed Colleen's shoulder.

"I'm driving. I won't be able to drive." Colleen appealed to their sense of reason.

"Fuck, I drove all the way from Cabin Heights, forty fuckin' kilometres as high as a kite on crack. What are we? Three, maybe four kilometres away from this cottage?" Seb asked her.

"Two. I think." Colleen replied shakily.

"You can fuckin' drive two kilometres high on crack. Give her the pipe." Seb ordered Terence.

"Yeah baby! You'll be one of us!" Terence laughed, passing her the pipe.

"I'll hold the pipe and light it. You only need to inhale. Terence, keep the fuckin' gun to her head." Seb ordered him.

"I'm on it!" Terence responded holding the gun to the back of her head.

"Now on the count of three, I'm going to light this lighter. When I do, I want you to take the biggest fuckin' inhale you've ever taken. Ready? Three. Two. One. Go!" Seb said counting down.

As he lit the lighter, Colleen did as they requested, inhaling as much as she could. She coughed at first and struggled to blow the smoke out of her lungs. The passengers in the car laughed as Colleen choked.

"We just took your virginity!" Terence pulled the gun away from her head as Colleen began to cry.

"Women, always fuckin' crying. She should be laughing and she's fuckin' crying." Seb shook his head bringing about another round of laughter from the male passengers.

In the commotion and her turmoil, Colleen suddenly lost control of the SUV as it careened off the road and into the darkness of the forest. She struggled to avoid oncoming trees until the SUV hit a stump on its right side, sending the vehicle into a spinning tumble. It rolled for forty meters before coming to a stop on its roof.

Seb unclipped his seat belt and dropped to the ground with a thud. He then slid out through the broken passenger window, stumbling to his feet.

"What a rush..." he said stumbling some more before coming to his senses.

He quickly did a head count and found there to be one passenger missing. Clarence. He stumbled back in the direction the SUV had tumbled and came upon a crushed and bloody mess of a body. Clarence had not been wearing his seat belt and had been ejected through one of the passenger windows as the SUV rolled. It was obvious by the severe head trauma that the vehicle had rolled over him, with its weight falling upon his crushed head. Seb checked him for any signs of breath but instead found his face to be an unrecognizable crushed pulp.

"What the fuck just happened?!" Sam screamed having gotten out of the SUV.

"We crashed. Clarence is dead." Seb told him.

"He's what?" Terence got to his feet having pulled himself free of the inverted vehicle.

"Gone. Dead. Crushed. Don't look. It ain't pretty." Seb struggled to keep the contents of his stomach in place.

Bobby joined them followed by Jafarma.

"What about the lady? She fuckin' did this! She did it on purpose!" Terence blew up, searching the ground for his gun.

"She's unconscious. I checked her." Jafarma told them.

"Good. Mission accomplished. Now we find the cottage and get the comic and get the fuck out." Terence exclaimed.

"Let's get the van turned over. We can do it with all of us." Seb assured them.

"We just need to push all at once and don't stop until its on its wheels." Seb went and stood next to the van, bracing his hands against the frame and chassis, the others following his instructions. They pushed several times, slowly rocking the vehicle back and forth on its roof until it rolled with little effort back onto its wheels.

"We did it! See! This was meant to be! We're killin' it!" Terence clapped his hands together fiercely.

"We lost Clarence." Sam reminded him.

"So. More for us." Terence laughed.

"True." Bobby agreed.

"We still have to find the place. What about the lady? Wake her up and she can tell us." Terence demanded.

"Pull her from the driver's seat. I'll drive slowly and we'll look for the property marker posts." Seb said as they pulled Colleen from driver's seat and placed her in the back of the SUV.

"What about Clarence? We can't just leave him here?" Sam asked.

"Yes we can." Seb responded.

"Alright. As long you're calling the shots." Sam backed down.

"I guess I am." Seb agreed.

Seb sat in the driver's seat and turned the key. The engine turned over a few times but did not start.

"Shit. Now we've got problems." Seb shook his head.

"Leave the headlights on and we'll use them to find the place. She said its not far. Probably about a half kilometre from where we crashed." Jafarma suggested.

"Good idea. I'm with Jafarma." Bobby agreed.

"Me too." Chuck added, having been silent for most of the trip.

"Alright. We walk in the direction of the headlights." Seb agreed, taking the lead.

The six of them walked through the darkness under the guidance of the SUV's headlights, which were visible for about a hundred metres before they began to disappear leaving them in the pitch black darkness. Seb struggled to find some kindling and a stick, making a torch from tattered bits of his shirt and the wood he'd salvaged. Incredibly, it worked though he managed a few burns as the shirt he'd used melted, falling away as embers landing upon his hand as he carried it. Something he was used to as a crack cocaine smoker, because the embers from the pipe would often fall onto his shirt, leaving most of his tops and some of his pants filled with small holes. One of the telltale signs Police often used to identify those who used the substance.

Using the torch, they were able to navigate the forest and another two hundred meters onward they stumbled upon a cottage.

"Jackpot! This is it!" Terence ran up to the front porch, taking a seat on one of the wooden chairs neatly perched upon it.

"We're home free." Sam checked the door finding it to be locked.

"Seb? Could you do the honours?" Sam asked Seb.

"Stand back." Seb said, kicking the door with his two hundred and seventy five pound frame.

The door gave out on his first kick, flying open and bouncing off the wall along its hinges until it swung shut again. Seb pushed the door open stepping into the cottage.

"Does this look like the cottage of an old widow?" asked Seb.

"All cottages look like the cottage of an old widow." Sam replied.

"So now we've just got to find the comic book." Jafarma observed.

"No kidding. Let's start searching room by room." Bobby suggested.

"Let's get the lights on first." Sam suggested.

"There's a generator here. Around the back. Smells like its still got some gas." Seb pulled the starter cord and priming the motor. 

After a minute of effort, the motor roared to life and settled into a steady idle, coughing and sputtering occasionally.

"That's a bit loud isn't it?" Chuck asked.

"There's nobody around for miles. Nobody will hear it." Seb reasoned with them.

"The lights are working!" Sam flipped the entry way light switch and the cottage was suddenly lit.

"Good. Let's get busy looking for this comic and get the hell out of here." Sam suggested as he headed towards the first room he could find.

"Give every room a thorough search. Tear everything apart anything until you find it. They said its very well hidden." Terence confirmed what he'd heard from both the lady and her man.

Seb took Jafarma and headed to one of the bedrooms. Chuck smirked at Seb, suspecting that he was putting the moves to his girl.

"Are you gonna take that homie?" Bobby asked Chuck.

"Nothin' will happen. If he does my old lady, I'll do him. MMA or not. I'll do him." Chuck assured Bobby.

"As long as you don't do Terence. He's carrying all of the cocaine rock bro." Bobby reminded him.

"Well sheeit. I think we need some more to help us find this damned comic." Chuck and Bobby found Terence in the kitchen already taking a hit off of the pipe.

Sam searched the room he'd found, which appeared to be a utility room of some sort. It had a washer and dryer and a tool bench near by. There was also a fuse box and a line running out through an insulated hole out to the generator. He opened the fuse box, searching it thoroughly and then the washer and dryer. He even pulled them out from the wall and checked the back to make sure nobody stashed the comic inside of the mechanical parts of the appliances.

Terence, Chuck and Bobby finished the pipe and began searching the kitchen. Terence hit the fridge first, perhaps hoping to find a snack. He was suddenly startled upon opening the fridge door to find a large raccoon staring back at him.

"Arrrgh! Fuck~! It's a bear!" Terence ran out of the kitchen screaming.

Bobby took a peek at the half open fridge, jumping back when he saw the raccoon.

"Fuck, there's a giant squirrel in there, man." Bobby squinted as he backed up.

The raccoon squawked and hissed at them as they backed off. When they'd given it enough room, it grabbed two of its pups and hauled them out through the front door of cottage, leaving its nest for good.

"That was a big fuckin' squirrel man. Look, it was livin' in there." Bobby took a closer look at the fridge interior.

The raccoon had torn the insulation from the fridge and used it to line a large nest it had built. There was a small hole in the back of the fridge through which it had obviously gained access. Bobby pulled out the fridge and found a another hole in the wall, leading directly outside.

"Man this place is in need of some repair." Chuck took a look.

"Is the bear gone!" Terence looked into the kitchen from around the corner.

"That wadn't no fuckin' bear. It was a squirrel man." Bobby blasted him.

"I ain't never seen a squirrel that big before." Terence shot back.

In the bedroom Seb had already closed the door. Both Jafarma's and Seb's pants were down to their knees as they nonchalantly screwed. Jafarma struggled to keep herself from moaning as Seb breathed heavily. When they heard the sound of running footsteps outside of the door, they quickly stopped and pulled up their pants.

They waited a moment to see if the door would open, and then relaxed a bit after the commotion outside of the door had died down.

Seb went for her pants again and she resisted this time.

"I can't do dat. Not with my man out there." she'd suddenly acquired a fear of being caught more so than an actual conscience.

"What the fuck? You give me all the signs girl. Get me all warmed up and now you're turning me down? Bitch!" Seb slapped her across the face, hard.

Her nose began to stream blood and she ran for the door, slamming it open as she stormed out of the room crying.

"Fuckin' women." Seb said as he turned his attention to the search for the comic.

He ripped the mattress from the bed to find that the box-spring had a putrid fungal-mold growing on it. The stench made his eyes water and he cursed under his breath.

He ripped the bed up from the floor, leaning it against an empty dresser on the wall and checked for any sign of the comic. The flooring was interlocked hardwood and had been fit together like a jig-saw puzzle. Seb tapped it a few times with his fist and found a hollow section beneath. He examined the rest of the floor near the hollow part and found a small square piece of the flooring could be easily removed. Beneath it he found the rough sub-flooring, which was lined with rotten insulation. Upon closer examination he found that one of the floor boards could move by sliding it along its length to fill the opening left by the removed piece. He noticed that the other end of the sliding piece exposed the hollow portion he'd been trying to get at.

"What you doin' with my woman fucker!" Chuck stormed into the room screaming at Seb.

Seb turned to see Chuck brandishing Terence's piece.

"You ever fired one of those?" Seb asked him calmly.

"No. I'm about to get my first lesson blowin' your head off mutherfucker!" Chuck stepped from side to side nervously.

"You won't get far. The safety's on." Chuck fell for the ploy hook line and sinker.

He turned the gun away from Seb to examine it. He'd never heard of a safety much less handled a firearm.

Seb took the opportunity and delivered a punch to Chuck's exposed stomach, while grabbing at the gun. Seb and Chuck struggled for a moment before Seb got hold of the gun.

Seb aimed the gun at Chuck's leg and pulled the trigger once. The room was filled with the loud blast of the firearm as Chuck fell to the floor grasping at his leg, screaming in pain.

"That's for pointing the gun at me. Don't ever fuckin' do that again." Seb took the gun and pocketed it.

"That's my piece you fucker!" Terence shouted at him.

"Not any more." Seb answered.

"Then you ain't gettin your cocaine back." Terence challenged him.

"Like fuck I'm not." Seb pulled the gun again and leveled it at Terence.

"Its alright. We're cool. Here, you can have it back." Terence handed him the baggie, withholding the chunk he'd secretly taken for himself for later.

"Is this all of it? What the fuck?" Seb looked at the baggie.

"It wasn't me. Honest. Chuck and Terence smoked it all. Honest!" Bobby lied, backing up as he pleaded.

From outside there was suddenly a blood curdling scream.

"That's my woman!" Chuck struggled to his feet, hopping towards the door.

"Why'd you leave her outside like that?" Seb asked him as he hopped away.

"To keep her safe from you, fucker!" Chuck yelled as he balanced himself against the front doorway.

"She probably saw that bear!" Terence yelled back at Chuck.

"It was a fuckin' squirrel!" Bobby threw back.

"Did you find anything?" Terence suddenly changed the subject having noticed the progress Seb had made on the floor.

"No. Its just loose floor boards and rotten wood." Seb lied.

"We're still searching the kitchen. We found a bear! Living in the fridge man! A fuckin' bear! I swear!" Terence told Seb, his eyes wild.

"I told you it was a fuckin' squirrel!" Bobby corrected him.

"Oh my fuckin lord! She's arrrrrgh!" Chuck screamed from outside.

Bobby, Terence and Seb ran for the front door to find Chuck laying atop of Jafarma's upper torso. He was wimpering, tears dropping from his nose onto her lifeless face. She'd been ripped cleanly in half along her waist. Her lower torso several meters away, twisted as if thrown by incredible force.

"I told you it was a fuckin' bear!" Terence yelled, clearly panicking.

"For the last time, it was a fuckin' squirrel man!" Bobby yelled back.

"How could a fuckin' squirrel do that?" Terence screamed back at him.

"Where's Sam?" Bobby asked.

"I'm right here. What the... holy shit! What's happening? There's like a wolf pack around here. Its gotta be, because there ain't no other thing that can do that!" Sam struggled to keep his stomach from turning inside out.

"I'm telling you it was the bear!" Terence exclaimed, sounding like an mp3 player stuck on repeat.

"Shut the fuck up about the bear or I'll blow your fucking head off!" Seb struggled to maintain his calm.

"Look, let's just find the comic and get the fuck outta here!" Bobby suggested on the brink of panic himself.

"You fuckers don't even give a shit about my woman here!" Chuck cried.

"She took her chances when she ran outside." Terence absolved himself of any responsibility for her fate.

"Let's get inside. Find the comic. We'll take it from there." Seb ordered them.

"What if we don't find it? You ever think of that?" Sam shot back at him.

"It was your plan, genius. I don't know. Whether we find it or not, we'll have to haul her body into the cottage and torch the place." Seb made it clear that he was calling the shots.

"I ain't touching any of her body." Terence spoke fanatically, walking in circles.

"Alright. Then I'll do it. If we find the comic, I get the biggest cut." Seb leveraged his profit margin.

"I'm game for that. I just want to get outta here alive." Bobby agreed.

"Cool. We can do dat." Terence agreed.

"Sam?" Seb turned to his cohort.

"I guess so, because Terence's plan is just fucked now!" Sam agreed.

"It wasn't my plan asshole!" Terence shot back relying on his faulty sense of recall.

"Chuck?" Sam took the initiative to check with his friend.

"What choice do I have, man. He's got all the guns now." Chuck's tears had dried and the pain in his leg had amplified.

"Yeah, and you're right. I had my dick in your girl right before she died." Seb added, laughing slightly as he tripped on his sense of power.

Chuck attacked Seb, suddenly finding the strength to get up, launching himself in rage. Seb had been expecting Chuck's reflex and easily deflected his attack, throwing him into the house through the doorway.

"Fuck. Another puppet, just like his woman. See? You can find the strength to finish the job even in the worst of situations. You guys all let yourselves be played like violins. I'm at the top of this pecking order. Don't fuck with me!" Seb responded.

"We get the comic. We torch the place. We get the fuck out." Sam reminded Seb.

"That's the plan, Sam. Unless you guys don't like money and cocaine." Seb smiled.

"It's not that I don't like money or cocaine. I'm just more worried about the time in." Sam reminded Seb.

"What profit is there that doesn't have risk attached, philosopher?" Seb asked him.

"I'll get back to you on that." Sam responded.

"Bobby, look after Chuck's leg. Wrap it in something to stop the bleeding. Make a splint out of a piece of wood." Seb ordered Bobby.

"How the fuck do I do that?" Bobby asked.

"I don't know. Find a fuckin' boyscout manual or something. I mean you're into little boys aren't you?" Seb pressed his buttons.

"If we ever get out of here with that comic, I'm going to kill you fucker. Mark my words." Bobby responded, hesitantly stepping into the kitchen after Chuck to tend to his wounds.

"Not if I kill you first." Seb replied, returning to the bedroom where he'd found the hollowed cubby hole in the flooring.

Seb saw Terence playing with the floor boards and hidden cubby hole as he entered the room.

"What are you doing man?" Seb asked him.

"I'm checking this out. Its a hidden box or something. Right in the floor man. How did you miss this?" Terence responded.

"You're full of shit. There's nothing there. I checked it already." Seb assured him hoping he'd give up and leave the room.

"Let me see for myself man." Terence persisted, pulling at the floor boards until he'd completely uncovered the hollowed out section of flooring.

Within lay a large ornately decorated chest.

"What do we have here?" Terence smiled.

"Keep it down, man. Do you want the rest of them to know?" Seb told him.

"What do you mean? We found it!" Terence lowered his voice a little as Seb had requested.

"Fuck if they find out, then we've gotta share it with them. If I can get six million for this, that's two and a half million for you and three and a half million for me. That's enough for you to buy a house, a nice car and a lot of cocaine. Not to mention if you're smart with your money, you can stretch it out for the rest of your life. Keep yourself clean of this shit. If we let them in on it, there's barely enough for a house or even a nice car, let alone the cocaine." Seb advised him.

"Are you saying that we should take it all?" Terence's eyes were wild with possibility.

"We'd be like business partners, man. Watchin' each other's back. Rich as fuck. You're different from these fuckers man. You've got something goin' that they don't. A sense for success." Seb played him like a fiddle.

"I know man. I've always known that. There's something around the corner for me man. Big! Lots of cocaine too. If you stick with me, we'll be rolling in the dough." Terence bought into Seb's bluff.

"I knew that from the moment I set eyes on you, bro. You're destined for the big bang, man." Seb toyed with him.

"Wait, what do you mean big bang? Isn't that like science shit man? I'm a man of religion, man. Cocaine is my religion. I don't take any of that big bang shit." Terence laughed feeling like he had the upper hand.

"Nooo. I didn't mean science shit, man. I meant like a loud noise. You know. Like a bang in your head man. You catch what I'm saying?" Seb continued his ploy, hoping to hit the sensitive point of paranoia in Terence's mind.

"What, you mean like you're going to shoot me, man? If I don't go along with your plan?" Terence suddenly became paranoid as Seb expertly plucked his violin strings, pizzicato.

"Where are you going with that? I'm your business partner! We're going to keep this secret. You and me, and I guarantee that you'll go out with a bang!" Seb really pushed it this time, leveraging all of his experience working as security for the mafia.

In Seb's books, he was getting rid of the competition. After all, it was clear that they'd found the jackpot. They were the only two aware of this and Seb had all of the cards in his hand. He had all of the guns. He had all of the experience. He had all of the connections necessary to sell everything they'd stolen thus far. Without him, they'd have ended up in prison long ago.

Seb had a great opportunity to grow into the infrastructure of the mafia. An opportunity he'd come to realize that he'd squandered, snorting cocaine, smoking crack and fucking women. Eventually they'd cut him loose as he'd become too much of a risk. During his time with them though, he'd picked up many tricks of the trade and had become a master manipulator. Although he was on the bottom of the pecking order of anything related to organized crime, he was at the top of the pecking order when it came to the pile of shit under it. To the small time dealers and crooks in the hood, he was like a god. The one thing that the small time dealers and crooks failed to realize was that everything has levels to it. They were on one level, and there were levels above them, that were as giants. Even the giants had other titans above them ad infinitum, though Seb speculated that somewhere, there was an actual top of everything. The secret of secrets.

Since being rejected by the level above him, he'd come to love being at the top of the shit pile upon which he'd fallen. Like a god among men, he could play them all.

During his time he'd seen men with money. Few of them had issues of addiction, except for the addiction to the accumulation of more. More money but certainly so, more power in their particular level of being. Seb had come to realize that it took large sums of money to cross the level boundary to advance to the next higher level. The paradigm from which you start at the bottom and once again proceed through to the top. To Seb, this comic had become the means by which he'd make such a transition from the level of shit pile, to the next level up. He was ready to be on the bottom again, especially given his experience for he'd realized that he had the ability to climb in the midst of those he could play like instruments. Terence had suddenly become an obstruction to his opportunity to make the next jump to the next level. A level where he'd be playing with the big players again. Not struggling for tens or twenty sized bags of crack. He'd get closer to the pure blow and hence, the pure money. If all were as easily manipulated as were those in the shit pile, he'd be the king soon enough.

To him, Terence was in the way and it turned him on immensely to play such men and women as Terence. As much so as it turned his crank to see them fall before him. Even dead.

Terence's eyes had gone wild. He'd hit that point where he'd realized he was being played somehow, yet he didn't understand how. Here was his friend, Seb. A man he'd trusted as they'd preyed upon many unoccupied cottages in the Haliburton region of Ontario. Yet here he was hinting that he was going to give Terence a bang. The possibilities were horrific to Terence. That could mean that Seb was going to rape him, or it could mean that Seb was going to blow his head off with one of the guns he possessed.

"You're fucking with me man! You put something in the crack!" Terence stood, slowly making his way around Seb to the door.

"Fuck you I am. If you can't trust your own business partner, then who the fuck are you going to trust? I'm testing you man." Seb tried to salvage his bluff.

"Really? Fuck man, I'm solid as they come, man. I'm your partner. Business partner, I mean." Terence struggled to buy himself more time.

"You're my bitch and I'm going to bang you." Seb spoke manipulatively trying to push Terence over the brink.

"What did you say to me man? Do you know who you're fuckin' with man!" Terence began using body language to intimidate Seb, though Seb saw through this ploy and put forth one of his own.

Seb stopped for moment and held his arms up in the air.

"What gives bro. I'm fuckin' with ya! I'm joking man. Fuck! We're bros man!" Seb laughed, trying to ease the tension and make all of Terence's paranoia and reaction his own fault.

"No shit, man!" Terence stopped his body language and stood calmly before Seb.

"Really. No shit. We're going to be rich, bro. You've got to have my back, though. I'm serious. You can't tell anyone. Not even Sam. Bobby or Chuck. Nobody." Seb assured him, knowing he still had the thing that Terence wanted most: the baggie of crack cocaine.

"I'm cool man. We're partners bro. Let's get rich." Terence agreed.

"But first, lets get high again..." Seb handed him the baggie of crack as he hefted the chest from the cubby hole in the floor.

"I thought you'd never ask." Terence's eyes nearly teared as he saw the baggie.

Meanwhile, Sam had made his own progress in the utility room. Beneath one of the appliances, he'd found a storage space with a tiny door hidden in the floor. The door was hinged and set in place by a sliding lock latch, much like you'd find on a door to a house or apartment. It was hidden under a carefully shaped panel that completely obscured any hint of a secret door.

Sam unlatched the lock, and opened the storage space revealing an elaborately decorated chest.

"Yesss! I found it! I * am * going * to * be * rich!" Sam whispered aloud to himself.

He lifted the chest out of the storage space and examined it trying to find a way to open it.

Back in the kitchen, Bobby had just finished dealing with Chuck's wound. He'd wrapped it with a torn piece of a bed sheet he'd found in a linen closet, reinforcing it with a chunk of discarded wood. He'd also managed to find a large stick, which Chuck could use as a cane for walking.

Chuck struggled to his feet, and was able to stand, using the cane to balance himself.

"Thank you Bobby. We're bros right?" Chuck asked Bobby.

"We're going to get that fucker." Bobby's temper flared.

"But first we have to find that comic. If we do, fuck the others. You and me get out of here together. I've got a friend in the Bahamas who can sell it." Chuck told him.

"If you've got a friend in the Bahamas, what the hell are you doing here?" Bobby asked skeptically.

"I got mixed up in the shit man. Like you. Like everyone. But I'm going to make things right. For my dead woman. For you and me. We're going to fuck Seb over real good." Chuck assured Bobby.

"Well we'd better find that comic then!" Bobby's eyes narrowed.

"That's what I mean. I got to thinkin' while we were searchin'. Before my woman went down. If I were to hide a comic book in a cottage, I'd hide it in the place nobody would ever check. I'd hide it in the vents above the wood stove. Wrap it good to keep it from moisture and heat." Chuck leaned in close to Bobby's ear, speaking quietly.

Bobby immediately looked over to the wood stove, and then noticed that it had a chimney of its own. A series of duct work winding its way to the ceiling where it met a metal bracket.

Bobby stood on one of the kitchen chairs and grasped at the wood stove vent, looking for a way to remove it. He noticed that both ends of the vent, the brack and the vent itself were threaded in opposite directions, meaning he could merely twist it and remove it.

He began the steady rhythm of turning and pulling, hoping the find the point at which the vent would become free of the metal threads. After a minute of such turning and pulling, the vent became free in his hands and within the ceiling, he spied a colourfully decorated chest.

"Chuck my man. You're a fucking genius you are." Bobby spoke in hushed tones.

"We're cool, Bobby. You 'n me's goin' to be rich. The first thing we's going to buy is a proper grave for my woman." Chuck said, still mourning her passing.

"Then we're going to buy a lot of new women and fuck them." Bobby spoke with insensitivity.

There was a moment of silence as Chuck checked for any others that might hear him and his response.

"Hell ya bro. We're goin' to get it on. Fuck em' one and fuck em' all." Chuck smiled, seeming to have forgotten his mourning altogether in the face of riches.

Seb sat taking a pull on the pipe, his gun safely beside him as Terence struggled with the lock. He'd twisted a clip he'd found in the dresser, fashioning it into a makeshift skeleton key.

With a bit of sudden pressure and finessing, the lock clicked. Terence turned to Seb and smiled.

"I think I got it bro. Gimme fifty thousand extra if I did?" Terence bargained.

"Deal." Seb answered, his lips clasping the pipe and his right hand clasping the gun.

"Here goes..." Terence lifted the lid and felt no resistance as he did.

Meanwhile in the utility room, Sam used a screwdriver he'd found to pry the lid of his chest away from fragile brass hinges. They snapped with the pressure and he slowly lifted the lid open.

Back in the kitchen, Bobby used a silver butter knife to pry the chest open, breaking the tiny lock entirely, destroying much of the elaborate artwork adorning the chest.

"Holy fuck!" Bobby said as he lifted the lid.

"No shit!" Sam responded as he spied the contents of his chest.

"We're fuckin' rich bro." Seb said as he spied the contents of the chest Terence had just opened.

At that moment, the generator suddenly ceased. It choked to a stop, coughing fumes and fuel-air mixture as it devoured the last of the gasoline. The lights wavered slightly and then in all suddenness, they ceased to be. Only complete darkness remained.

"You still with us guys?!" yelled Seb, directing his focus to the rest of the cottage.

"We're here." Bobby answered for Chuck and himself. 

"I'm struggling but fine." Sam replied as loud as he could.

"You find anything?" Seb yelled in question.

"Nothing! This room's dead as when we got here." Sam lied.

"Likewise! There's nothing here but Terence's bear nest!" Bobby answered.

"Alright! We've got to get Jafarma's body into the cottage and light this place ablaze. Then we'll find our way back to the SUV. It should have a bit of battery power left. I've got a bit of experience with cars and engines. I'll get it going and we'll get outta here. Lay low until it calms down. We'll come back and search again in a few months. Sound good?" Seb proposed deceitfully.

"I'm game for that." Sam replied.

"Us too. We'll come back when the gettin's good." Bobby replied.

"Good. Let's use our lighters to find our way to make a torch. We'll meet you out front." Seb yelled to the rest.

"Ten four!" Sam yelled.

"We'll be there." Bobby replied.

Terence grabbed the comic from the chest and passed it to Seb.

"You protect it. We both profit." Terence reminded him.

"You got it." Seb replied stashing the comic in his pants. 

Sam stashed his comic in his jacket.

Bobby stashed their comic in his sock, wrapping it around his leg.

By the time that Seb and Terence had arrived, Bobby and Chuck had already pulled Jafarma's upper torso onto the front porch, leaving a path of her entrails behind them.

"You guys get her ass." Chuck told Seb insensitively.

Seb grabbed hold of one of her feet, and dragged her lower remains into the house, tossing them with a thud and a slosh into the kitchen.

Bobby began hauling her upper body, before Chuck stopped him.

"She's my woman. My burden." Chuck used his cane to steady himself as he dragged the upper torso of his deceased girlfriend into the cottage. 

He pulled her and positioned her upper torso near her lower body. He figured that she'd prefer it that way. Maybe it might be easier in the after life to reattach herself together. He then asked himself honestly what the living really knew of the dead. Perhaps the only wise question he'd ever considered in his lifetime.

Chuck hobbled out of the cottage, slowly but steadily and took his place near Bobby.

Seb had fashioned himself another torch which he used to set the cottage ablaze. He'd piled kindling into the doorway, which at first had burned readily before extinguishing itself in the absence of fuel. He then tossed a few more logs into the cottage as fuel, and set it ablaze again. This time the cottage went up and quickly. The flames grew taller and taller and lit their way.

The five of them used the light of the fire to guide them back to the SUV, nearly three hundred metres away in the blackness of night. Through the darkness they slogged until they arrived at the dimming headlights of the SUV.

"See. I told you we'd make it before the battery burnt out." Seb spoke confidently as he lifted the hood open and played with the engine.

Bobby and Chuck stayed a bit of distance from the van, talking with one another.

"We should do them here." Chuck told Bobby.

"What the fuck. He has all the guns." Bobby spoke nervously.

"Yeah. He could use them to search us. If he finds what we found, we're dead. Chuck offered his cane to Bobby" Chuck encouraged Bobby.

"What the fuck. Do you want me to kill him with a stick? He's an experienced fighter." Bobby answered.

"We've got to do something or we'll never get out of this alive." Chuck assured Bobby.

Sam meanwhile had been carving and sharpening a stick with his utility knife. It was a short stick, much like a vampire steak he'd surmised he'd plunge first into Seb, then anyone else seeking a piece of his comic.

As Seb toyed with the engine, he urged Terence over to him.

"Look bro. You've gotta take them out. I'll trust you with the piece. Do it and we'll be rich business partners. I've got to get this engine working. Do your part and I'll do mine." Seb handed Terence one of the guns.

Terence accepted it knowing what he had to do.

Sam brandished his sharpened stick, ready to plunge it into Seb's heart.

Bobby readied Chuck's cane. He'd use it to bludgeon them leaving only himself and Chuck to collect the riches.

As they approached each other, ready to commit murder, a blinding flash of light lit the forest around them.

A thin godly figure of a woman, appeared before them. Her body as light as much was day. She appeared as the figure from the front cover of Chuck and Bobby's comic.

She disarmed Bobby, first with a strike of her fists sending his weapon to the ground. He lunged at her full force as she disappeared, instantaneously appearing behind him. She kicked him from that point, crushing his hip and sending him to the forest floor barely able to move. He writhed in pain screaming and crying with any motion to his legs or hips.

She then flew over to Chuck and kicked him in his wounded leg. Chuck curled over falling to the forest floor swinging at her with his fists. She quickly delivered a crippling punch to his face, knocking him unconscious as she disappeared.

Sam suddenly found himself under assault by a blond haired woman clad in a trench coat. The very woman who'd adorned the cover of the comic book he'd found. She kicked him in the face, and leapt onto him on the ground, delivering several punches to his face, rending him unconscious after which she disappeared.

Terence's gun was suddenly kicked from his hand. He turned to face his attacker only to find a Chinese woman clad in tremendous butterfly wings. She waited for her prey to move as she stood listless in the night.

Terence leapt at her, as she delivered a punch to his lower abdomen, a kidney punch sending him to the dirt. He struggled with his consciousness as he suddenly recognized the woman from the front cover of his and Seb's comic.

She timidly walked over and delivered a kick to his jaw, leaving Terence in a state that would find him confined to a bed for more than two years.

Seb backed away from the SUV, and immediately recognized his nemesis.

Not only was she the woman from the cover of the comic that he and Terence had found, but she was the woman for which he'd been contracted for the hit. The woman who'd wiped out an entire branch of the mafia in the 1940s. The branch that had tried to steal the works of Fanny's husband before they'd suddenly disappeared into nothingness. The story of this butterfly dragon woman had remained ingrained in the annals of organized crime history in the stories of thugs and chiefs alike. Seb had been hired by the mafia many decades later to find this supernatural woman and to destroy her. By doing so, he'd restore his stature and be protected by the mafia forever more.

"So you're the one." Seb asked the woman who did not acknowledge nor answer him.

She merely took a stance before him and he accepted her challenge.

Seb charged her full force. He'd figured his larger size would be too much for one of her tiny frame.

She merely sidestepped him, delivering a simple blow to his lower left back muscle that threw him to the ground, using his own momentum against him.

He was upon his feet again and charged at her. This time she merely side stepped and clothes-lined him, sending him once again to the dirt.

In the SUV, Colleen had suddenly awoken with a start. Her head pounding and her heart beating a mile a minute. She got out of the van and stumbled around towards the headlights at the front of the vehicle.

Seb suddenly recognized her and instead of attacking the Chinese woman, he directed his full attention to Colleen.

"This is all your fault bitch!" he yelled at her.

He closed his fists and struck at her with blinding strength and speed.

Colleen found the strength to move, dodging his attack yet falling to the ground, still vulnerable to the large two hundred and seventy-five pound goon.

The butterfly woman appeared before him, urging him on again. Seb turned his attention to her, accepting her challenge. He struck at her furiously missing her entirely, his fist impacting with the steel frame of the SUV, instantly breaking every bone in his right fist. He swung with his left hand, missing yet again and connecting with the glass windshield that had not been destroyed in the crash.

Seb fell to the ground, a bloody mess as Colleen found her way to her feet. The butterfly woman quickly struck Seb with force that rendered him unconscious. 

"Stay safe. You've been through a lot. Fanny always liked you. Ken too. You'll make a wonderful couple." the butterfly woman spoke to Colleen.

She then waved to Colleen, blowing her a kiss before disappearing.

As she faded, several headlights appeared as Constable Kobachek drove up with several other squad cars and Officers. Behind them, Ken sped to a stop and flew out of his pick-up truck.

"Colleen!" Ken yelled, running over to her.

Colleen fell to the forest floor and struggled to retain her consciousness.

"Don't worry honey. You're going to be alright. The cavalry's here and I'm not going to let anything else happen to you." Ken held her close and she wrapped her arms around him and held on tight.

Three months later, and Ken sat at the donut shop, happily reading the newspaper. He put the paper down and reached for his coffee.

"Would you like a refill?" Colleen asked him.

"I think that would be most pleasant. But not so pleasant as you joining me at my table." Ken smiled, holding his cup up to her.

She filled the cup to the brim and returned the pot to the warmer before joining Ken at his table. One of the very tables he'd made for her at his workshop.

"So what's new in the news?" Colleen asked him.

"Well. That family with the cottage donated those comics to the Cooper Falls Museum Of Arts. They're a part of our history now. You might be happy to know that those burglars. The ones raiding the cottages around here were arrested that night as you know. They've had their pretrial hearings and they're going before the courts to stand trial for kidnapping, theft, rape and murder of a woman they dismembered after having violated her. I don't suspect they'll do well in court, and even less so in prison. It would seem they were taken down by the most courageous woman I've ever had the pleasure of knowing." Ken smiled at her.

"Are you telling me that you know of a woman more courageous than your own wife?" Colleen leaned in close to him, planting a kiss on his cheek.

"I'd have to say yes. She's a woman I see every day. She sits at my table often and we often share the best of conversation together. As a matter of fact, she only became my wife two weeks ago." Ken smiled at her.

"Well then, you'd better not lose her." Colleen advised him playfully.

"That ball's in her court as much so as it is mine." Ken spoke confidently.

"Then I'd say you have yourself a wife for life." Colleen got up, walked around the table and sat in his lap, as the patrons of the coffee shop applauded them.

Their lips met and remained locked to one another in a passionate October kiss.

Off in the distance amidst the remains of a burnt cottage, the property owners having recently arrived began cleaning the site, readying it for their new cottage.

"Daddy! Daddy! Look what I found!" Melissa, their daughter ran over handing them a golden work of art.

"Why look at that Melissa. You found a real live dragon! With butterfly wings to boot! This must have been on the door of the old cottage. The one that burnt down." her father rubbed her head protectively.

"Can we keep it?" Melissa asked looking to her mother and then her father.

Her father looked over to her mother, who thought for a moment before nodding yes.

"That looks like your mother likes your taste. We'll put it on the door. Something to protect us all." her father assured her.

The End

(This is tale one of a three tale Halloween. Look forward to the second tale soon)

Brian Joseph Johns