“Where’s your guy?” The War asked.
The back of the van was hot and cramped, especially with a giant of a man taking up most of the space. The night would be ending soon. With any luck, the vigilante would be dead and The War gone before the sun rose. Cook hoped as much anyway. All he wanted just then was to be back home with his wife Jeanne and his two daughters.
“He’s almost here. Him and his boys,” said Cook.
“One more minute and we start without them. This pissant little fucker ain’t getting away again. Any movement?” The War asked the driver.
“None,” the driver replied, peering through binoculars at an abandoned warehouse. The Stillwater district had their fair share of those.
“The intel’s good. He’s holed up in there, licking his wounds. Three of my boys confirmed it,” said Cook.
“To your face?” The War asked.
“The situation evolved very quickly. It was time sensitive information,” Cook said. His way of saying no and sorry without saying either.
“Something wrong?” one of the Spiders asked. The War glared at him.
“Don’t fucking talk to me, boot.” He turned back to Cook. “You walk into enough traps you start to get a sense for them.”
“You want to call it off?” Cook asked. The War shook his head.
“You kidding? I live for this shit.”
The War gave the signal. The van peeled out to the warehouse across the street, busting through the gate and parking near an access door. The War kicked down the locked door just as two other cars pulled up. There weren’t many homeless people left in Stillwater after the big gang shoot out but the ones who were left knew trouble when they saw it. Just then it happened to look like a huge guy in an army jacket and executioner’s hood, so they scattered.
Cook’s Spider lackeys fanned out quickly, clearing the immediate area. The warehouse was dark and quiet save for the wind whistling through the broken windows. There was something else too. A smell. The War didn’t recognize it, but it tickled his nose the wrong way. The Spiders’ search turned up empty.
“Ever feel like you walked into a mousetrap made for people?” Cook asked, a nervous edge in his voice.
“Mousetraps are for people. Trust me, they’re not made for the benefit of mice,” The War replied.
“So, what now?” Cook asked.
“All right, come on out!” The War yelled.
“What are you doing?” a horrified Cook demanded.
“Either you’re here or you’re not. Just step on out here like a man and don’t waste my time,” said The War. The lights came on all at once from all directions. The startled men instinctually circled up.
“You poor, gullible morons,” said a voice from seemingly everywhere.
“Aw hell naw,” said a Spider.
“We shouldn’t have come here,” said Cook.
“Don’t give me that shit, Chief,” said The War.
“The big guy and the cop stay. The rest of you leave while you can,” the voice boomed.
The Spiders glanced at each other, wondering who would run first. The War pulled a massive revolver out of a holster hidden inside his army jacket.
“Tonight’s not the night, boys,” he said with a manic grin.
“What do we do?” Cook asked.
“The fuck do you think? Take him down!” The War started shooting at the flood lights, his revolver expelling a deafening boom with every shot.
“Shit! What’s that gun’s caliber? One?” Cook asked. The Spiders followed suit and started shooting at lights.
“Does anyone see him?” someone yelled over the din of gunfire.
“There! Up There!” someone else shouted.
They looked up and saw a figure crouching on a beam. They opened fire. The figure was hit and fell, landing with a thump on the cement floor. They approached slowly and carefully. Except for The War. He shoved past them and rolled the figure over. It was a sack of potatoes wrapped in black cloth.
“This fucking guy,” The War muttered.
“Hey, where’s Johnny?” asked one of the Spiders. The others looked around. Johnny was indeed gone.
“Spread out! We’re getting him,” said The War.
The lights went out. Everyone had lost their night vision. Except for Nobody. One of the Spiders fell to the ground, knocked out by a blow to the head.
“Where is he?” Cook asked. The lights came back on, blinding them.
“You think you’re judge, jury and executioner. You think you can kill without consequences. You’re wrong. I am the consequence of your actions,” the voice boomed again.
“Someone get to the catwalks. Find him!” Cook ordered. Two Spiders ran at his command. They never made it to the stairs.
“He’s supposed to be half dead. Who is this fucking guy?” The War idly wondered as he reloaded his massive gun.
“He’s picking us off. We should get out of here and regroup,” said Cook.
“Run and you’re dead,” The War said matter of factly.
There was a sound like an air puff and one of the Spiders fell over unconscious. Another got his foot caught by a grapple hook and was dragged away screaming. Another Spider started shooting in all directions. The sound and flash of gunfire covered Nobody’s approach. He struck fast, taking another Spider down and disappearing just as quickly.
“You guys had big plans for Jet City, didn’t you?” The voice boomed. “Prop up the Spiders, make them the hot new shit on the block. Give them a foothold in the city and the rest would follow. Easy recipe for a gang war. But you’ve got timetables. You couldn’t wait for the inevitable to happen on its own. So you pushed things along. You had your boys dress up as Spiders and attack the big crime boss meeting which you knew about thanks to a tip from one of your Spider turncoats. Set them up and knock them down.”
“Dude, is that true?” a Spider asked. The War shot him between the eyes.
“Come on you fucking pussy, I ain’t got all night!” The War shouted. Laughter echoed throughout the warehouse.
“The Order should never have come here. You’re not saviors or defenders of the innocent. You’re monsters. Predators in search of prey,” the voice boomed.
“We got your boy,” The War said. He waited a moment, then said, “Bell. Your friend from the club. He have him now. And boy is he talking. It didn’t take long either. You made a big mistake trusting him.”
Nobody landed near them, his eyes pits of hatred. Cook jumped back in surprise. The War just grinned.
“Look at you. You still think you’re in control,” Nobody said. “Still think you’re getting out of here. You’re not. You’ve left a trail of destruction behind you. You and the organization you represent.”
“Get off your high horse. You wear a mask, you take down criminals same as us,” said Cook.
“This isn’t about principles. You crossed me, hurt my friends, targeted my city. For that, I’m going to tear you apart. Piece by piece. In your pride, in your hubris, you thought you could play with people’s lives like pieces on a game board. I exist because of people just like you and I won’t stop until there’s nothing left of you. Nothing.”
Cook dropped everything and ran. The War sighed and shot Cook’s head clean off.
“Look at that. Looks like you just killed a police chief. That’s not going to look so good for you,” said The War. Nobody’s eyes narrowed, but he showed no other sign of what he was feeling. Other than hatred.
“Be honest. Was that the plan all along or are you just making this up as you go along?” Nobody asked.
“I’m a soldier. I follow orders. I’m also an agent of justice who does whatever he has to to win. So who really knows?” The War replied. Nobody pulled out a bundle from the satchel on his back and carefully unwrapped it.
“There is a legend. In a monastery, on top of a mountain, there is a bell,” Nobody began. The last Spider ran to tackle him. He knocked him out midflight. “It is said that if one can ring the bell a thousand times in a single night, that person will achieve enlightenment.”
The wrappings fell away to reveal a pair of clubs, Far East in design and made from some kind of faded bronze material.
“That’s nice. Remind me to file that away in my ‘Shit I don’t fucking care about’ folder,” said The War. Nobody let out a chuckle and threw one of the clubs at The War’s chest. The War was about to let out a chuckle of his own when the club struck him and flung him backwards into a series of shelves. The club spun in an arc back into Nobody’s hand.
“These clubs are made from the remnants of just such a legendary bell. Let’s see if we can’t enlighten you.”