Britain to leave the EU. Trump to be President. Will the concluding chapter to this story bring an even bigger surprise? Find out below….
With notable lethargy Rick fumbled through the front door of Russell’s house and sat at the bottom of the stairs a few feet from the door. His body gave way to a slight tilt and his head rested with weight on the oak bannister. He’d been awake most of the last forty-eight hours but it was the anxiety that pushed his head to the wood. Russell followed him in shortly after, his step immeasurably lighter, unburdened by the considerations of the future that plagued Rick. Upon closing the door Russell bent down and gathered the day’s mail from the haphazard pile on the floor. The usual collection of bills and pamphlets with one exception. A letter in a pink envelope, scented with something faint and alluring. It was absent of an address or stamp, evidence of its delivery by hand. With the vigour of a small child at Christmas, Russell tore through the envelope to reveal what was hidden inside. A single A4 piece of paper, folded twice, sat blank in Russell’s hand. Blank except for a single line of text handwritten at the top and a faded paw print, pressed in ink at the bottom. The text read:
We got your message. Meet us at the abandoned Nexaco warehouse. If you don’t know where it is, find it.
As Russell read the message aloud Rick’s head parted from the bannister, a worried yet curious frown began to show on his face.
“Who sent you that?”
“I have no idea…”
“You’ve never got anything like it before?”
“I get letters everyday Rick, just like mo-“
“I meant letters like that! Have you ever got a letter like that one?”
“No.” Rick stood up from the foot of the stairs and leant with one hand on the adjacent wall. The silence that accompanied this moment was broken when Rick turned from the wall and returned his gaze to Russell.
“It has to be about Jeff.”
“Because coincidences like this don’t happen. But I don’t understand about the message, when and to who did we send a message?”
“Maybe it was by trying to kill Jeff?”
“That does seem the most likely but it’s not really a message. Unless the message they took from it is that we want Jeff dead.”
“Does the message have a time on it?”
“Not that I can see.”
“Let’s go now then.”
“Ok but do we want Jeff dead?”
“Do you really think he’ll stay quiet for the rest of his life? I’m not taking that chance.”
The roads out this side of town were worn and neglected. The erratic effect this had on the suspension of Rick’s aged Acura TSX mirrored perfectly the panicked nature of his and Russell’s heartbeat. Their journey was filled with a back and forth of questions all of which led to no destination. A single line in a single letter had led them here. A faint hope that this was the solution and the end to their ordeal. They pulled into the industrial estate that housed the abandoned Nexaco warehouse. Not much else stood here. Three unattached trailers missing their trucks lay to the east and a rust-laden water tank dwelled in the west. Sitting indecisively between them was the warehouse. Windows boarded, branding smeared. All but one entrance was dressed in chains and padlocked. The west side door remained ajar, its dressing of chains slumped on the floor alongside a pair of bolt cutters. Rick eased the car to a stop behind the water tank, out of sight of the road. He then ushered his gaze from the steering wheel over to Russell, who was holding ‘MC Hammer’ with a tightness of grip they both wished they had on the currently unfolding events, and said “shall we?” They both exited the car with feigned confidence, their surroundings firmly harboured in their awareness. It was a quiet part of town, if it could even be consider part of town, with the only sound being the drone of a nearby highway. Only the occasional pickup truck bearing a family’s supply of firewood would disturb the peace of the immediate vicinity. In spite of this the two of them moved with haste towards west side door. Arriving at it they carefully slid the fallen chains out of the path of door and opened it fully. They went inside.
The darkness of the warehouse, of which the light switch placed beside the entrance provided no sanctuary, was overwhelming. It masked a large majority of the inside, only subsiding in the few places where rays of sunshine fought through the boarded windows. The air was dank and thick, the rancid smell belied the emptiness of the warehouse. “Hello?” Rick called out. The echo to which was the only response. “Go over there and try to find a working light switch, I’ll check over here. If there’s no one here we’ll just have wait.” They headed off in different directions and it was not long before the dark obscured them from each other’s vision. Starting at one end of the north wall, Rick scoured his eyes over every steel shelf, every work bench, every wall cabinet. All that populated them were a mass of rusty tools, empty paint cans and other things that would be at home, unused in a garden shed. Getting to the other end of the wall took Rick time and it bore no fruit as his hope for any source of light dwindled away to the point where it had almost vanished. It was at that point he reached a large lever-style switch with a thick wire climbing up from it towards the ceiling. “I’ve found a switch!” Rick shouted out into the darkness yet from the darkness, no reply came. “Russell?!” This time a reply came but in the sound of a metal object falling to the floor. The sound rang throughout the warehouse making its already immense size seem infinite. Immediately after, one of the beams of light from the boarded windows was broken by a shape that disappeared as soon as it was seen. One final call “Russell?! What are you doing?!” was the last thing Rick remembered.
His return to consciousness was accompanied by the touch of something light and coarse brushing across his face. This was sharply contrasted by the blunt force of the fist that followed. His head rocked back and vacantly gazed at the now present light coming from the ceiling. As his head returned to its natural position, thick blood dripped from his mouth. The blood’s destination was an object perched on Rick’s lap. A ball of string. Formerly white, it now resembled a globe with countries marked in red. More disturbingly, however, were his fellow occupants of the warehouse. In front of him stood a group of cats or, more accurately, a group of people dressed as cats. An assortment of vibrant pastel and fluorescent costumes juxtapositioned with the industrial weapons hanging by their side.
“Wake up.” The evident leader of the group’s voice was cleared of any diction by the mask he wore. The angled length of pipe that rest atop his shoulder swung down to his side as he approached Rick. He grabbed Rick’s chin, checked his eyes for cognisance and then grabbed the ball of string before heading back to his position at the front of his group. “Why do you challenge us?”
“Challenge wha- What the fuck are you?!?” Rick finally managed to break silence but the words were yet to flow with the same ease as the blood.
The leader laughed a slow laugh. “You cannot rescind a challenge just because you have been caught.”
“I seriously don’t know what you’re talking abo-“
“DO NOT PLAY COY WITH ME!” His voice was a sudden eruption that echoed around the room. “Two nights ago, you were seen leaving THIS ball of string on our turf, therefore challenging us for that turf.”
“This is crazy, you’ve got it all wrong.”
“Is that so?”
“Yeah, yeah. Just let me explain.” The leader swung the pipe around, testing its weight.
“We are not known for our mercy. For good reason. However, I would like the entertainment of watching you try and talk you way out of this. So, Rick, please, tell us how you mistakenly challenged a gang of Furries.”
“Furries?! That’s what you are?! I thought Furries just fucked in costumes?”
“We’re aware of the public perception of us. It only describes the surface. Do you no longer wish to explain yourself?”
“Sorry, I’ll start.” Rick recounted the events of that night, not a single detail amiss. It drained him, both of energy and hope. For the first time the precariousness of the situation hit him. He’d escaped one sentence into the jaws of one far worse. During the course of Rick’s story, the leader had been brought a chair in which he now sat. One hand sat on the angled pipe and the other supported his head.
“I liked it” he said, rising from the chair, the pip returning to its origin on his shoulder. “But I did say earlier that we are not known for our mercy. Regardless of whether you intended the challenge, the fact is the challenge was made and we must respond.”
Rick, seeing no reprieve, bowed his head in acceptance. His thoughts raced back to the moment he accepted Russell’s request for help. Jolted to speech he asked “where’s Russell?” his question was met by silent staring. “At least let him go, he’s just an idiot.”
“It’s a little late for that.” The words held the leader’s hidden command as two others moved forwards to either side of Rick. With ease they lifted his chair and turned him one-hundred-and-eighty degrees. Now he stared directly into what used to be Russell’s face, the dripping remnants of his childhood friend. His body slumped and tied to a chair. Rick cried softly as a hand squeezed his shoulder, then progressed up his neck, nestling in his hair, pulling his head back, hard. At the moment Rick expected the knife, he was instead deafened by explosions. The room now appeared infinite, blinding white light stretched out omnidirectionally. As the room came back into view Rick could only see what was transpiring due to his chair lying flush on the floor, his head tilted back, viewing the scene upside down. Half the Furries lay bloody and dead, the others scurrying in disarray, being picked off one by one, bullets passing through their skulls meeting no resistance. They all fell. The bodies strewn across the warehouse floor. Men in tactical gear then converged on Rick. The first to arrive above him looked down with a wry smile, he peeled off his goggles and removed his helmet, the policeman from the hospital wiped the beads of sweat off his head and spoke.
“I think it’s time to discuss ongoing investigations.”
Rick sat dirty and despondent in the police interrogation room as a procession of officers interchanged in a blur. The end of this procession was marked by the return of the policeman from the hospital. He started talking at Rick.
“Who’d have thought months of tracking that gang would’ve led to you. We saw them post that letter at Russell’s home and needless to say, we read it. Then we had to move quick. We got to the warehouse before anyone else and bugged it. I’ll get to the point. We have your whole confession on tape so feel free to sit there in silence because this investigation is over. You’re done.”