For a moment, all you can hear is the clinking of Frank’s wallet chain and the rough thudding of his biker boots against the wooden floor. Even though the cabin has only four rooms, it’s very large and spacious. Each room is about the size of a middle class home, and the property surrounding the cabin is nothing but woods and swamp for miles and miles in every direction. Frank knows the cabin well, and has lived there for over fifteen years. The place needs a desperate clean, though.
The smell is putrid, as Frank walks into the living room to hang the skin of April’s freshly carved face out to dry with the rest of his new collection. Dispassionate and unperturbed, like that of a butcherer, he pierces the skin through one of the dozen fishhooks that are dangling by fishing line from the ceiling. The skin must dry a little before preparing it further. April’s not dead, yet, but it won’t be long now.
In the next room, the pool of blood below her is accumulating, and there’s not much time left until she bleeds out the rest of her life. If she could only wake-up in time, she would find that the jagged steal spikes have now ripped through her hands enough for her to escape from the X-shaped crucifix. With blood covering her body, all she would have to do is slip through the rope that Frank loosely tied just below her naked breasts. Then, jumping out the open window, April could run wildly through the woods at breakneck speed in search of freedom. Of course, she would have to survive several nights and days living with the predators of the swamp, but as least she would have a chance to survive. Even if she made it only to die after being rescued, at least she wouldn’t die alone and forgotten in this dreadful cabin like so many before her.
Scraping and striking the machete blade against the hallway as he walks back into the room, Frank laughs.
“I just cannot believe that you idiots still fall for the old policeman trap,” he says, shaking his head and scraping the machete blade against the wall. “How can you seriously believe that you live in such a secure world? With all of these terrorists killing everyone, I’d think that you’d be a little more on guard to protect yourself.” Frank taps the machete blade against his head a few times and then point it at April. “You know, I bet you’re one of those anti-gun activists.” He laughs. “You morons are all the same. How could you not be aware that there are monsters out there like me? Hell, and even if you called the real cops, I would’ve had you here carved up and frying on the stovetop before they’d arrive to save you.”
Constructed into bowls, Frank places the cranium of a human skull below each of her feet to catch some of the blood as it drips from her toes. “Ahh, fuck this shit. This is going to take forever,” he says, before swinging his machete and slicing April’s throat.
With the skin on her face missing, her eyes are surrounded by bleeding muscle tissue. She opens them wide. She struggles to breathe. Her mouth is gaping like her throat, and with no lips, blood is dripping from her teeth as she tries to scream. Twitching and gasping for air, with each beat of her heart, April’s blood pours down her body; some of it making it into the skull bowls, but most of it hitting the floor below and seeping through the cracks.
In her struggle, her hands break loose and she grasps her throat. Caught-up in the moment, Frank swings the machete twice more. The first hit cuts April’s left arm off at the elbow. The second swing becomes lodged halfway into the bone of her right arm. Aggravated, Frank growls and groans while he tries to yank it back out. In doing so, he nearly rips April’s arm out of its socket, but the blade will not budge.
With April’s adrenaline pumping, her throat is spitting blood and she’s swinging her severed arm. Spraying all over Frank, some of her blood gets in his eyes, temporarily blinding him. Struggling wildly in her last moments, the knot of the rope unties. Frank regains his sight and steps back quickly as her body falls to the floor. April twitches a few times knocking one of the skull bowls across the room. Then, silence.
Not taking any more chances, Frank unlocks the hidden wall compartment behind him and grabs an axe. With the first hard chop, April is nearly decapitated, but her head is still hanging on by a few threads of skin. One more chop and her faceless head rolls across the floor. Frank takes another swing into her back, releases the axe handle, and walks over to collect his new skull.
“Work, work, work, and more fucking work,” he says, walking back to the living room and jumping into his black leather reclining chair. “I’m going to take a break. And you, my friend, can join me.”
Reaching over to his right, Frank clamps April’s head into a vice that’s bolted on the table beside him. He tightens the vice clamp against her freshly carved and battered skull until bone begins to crack. Blood drips and pours all over the table, but before the blood pool reaches the remote, Frank snatches it up. Turning on the TV, he flips through channel after channel, finding nothing but aggravation. Ten minutes later, just when he does find something to watch, he hears a knock at the front door.
“Goddamn it, what the fuck! Every time I sit to relax.” Getting up from his chair, Frank pulls out the Glock that he had tucked into the back of his pants. “Just a minute!” he says, checking the gun chamber and walking to the door. He looks through the peek-hole only a second, unlocks several deadbolts, and opens it.
“Hey brotha! Good to see you!” Frank says, before giving his old friend a rough hug and hard slap on the back.
“Good to see you too, man. What are you up to?”
“Fuck, you know me, Craig, I’m just working. Come on in, man.” Craig walks inside. “Shit, man, I haven’t seen you since… Well, hell, since Columbus Ohio, man. I actually thought you were dead.”
“Dead? Why’d you think I was dead?”
“Well, because the family said they didn’t even know where you were.”
“Oh. Yeah. Well, Dex, had me on special assignment for the past few years—and you know how that goes.”
“That’s one hell of a long assignment,” Frank says, re-locking the door. They both walk into the living room. Frank sits back down in his reclining chair. “Either way, I’m happy as hell to see you, man.” He smacks his hand against the chair. “Anyways, you know I’m not patient when it comes to surprises, let’s cut to the chase. Why are you here, Craig?”
“I just thought I’d stop by and see what kind of shit you were into. To cut to the chase…” He smiles. “I thought that maybe we could get back into things like we use to, but it looks like you’re doing well without me.” Craig lightly pushes the facial skin hanging on the ceiling into a swing.
“Yeah, well… I’m not just doing it for fun right now. The underground has been recognizing my work recently and I’m pulling hits for some major cash now. Like that face that you just tapped on. I’m getting six figures for that job.” He leans back in his chair. “But you know, I am flying solo right now and I could definitely use some more muscle when it comes to collecting and preparing. And you know what?” Frank sat up in his chair. “You’re in luck, because I’m about to take the van into the city and collect for another job. You up for that? I mean, are you well rested? Cause I won’t lie, this is going to be a rough one.”
“Yeah, you know me, Frank, I’m always game.”
“Good. Then help me clean-up the trash in the other room and throw it in the incinerator. I’ve got to keep the place clean. We’ve got a meeting with the family here this weekend.”
“I know, I can’t wait. We haven’t had one in a while. It’s this Saturday, at seven, right?”
“Hell yeah it is. That’s why, even though you surprised me, I’m really glad you’re here to help now. I’ve only got a few days to get everything ready.” Frank jumps up from the chair. “Anyway, let’s do this shit then, so we can get the fuck up out of here.” He takes a few steps toward the hallway leading April’s corpse. “Oh yeah, hey, while we clean this shit up, you want a beer?”
“Hell yeah I do. Oh, and, Frank… Could I score a line off of ya before we get started?”
“Sure. Just head down the hallway right there and go help yourself. I’ve already got three or four lines chopped an’ ready in the room. Go ahead and do a few, while I get the beers. Just make sure to replace what you use—”
“That way you don’t have to do it later, when you’ll need your fix. I know. I know the routine brotha.”
Craig hurries to the torture room. Frank walks into the kitchen.
In the torture room, a strange feeling hits Craig like a sledge hammer as he looks at the dead, naked body on the floor in front of the crucifix. A sickness begins to grow in his stomach. “That woman looks so… familiar,” he says. But then he remembers the cocaine and quickly turns toward the worktable across the room. On the corner closest to him, he sees a mirror with four white lines, just like Frank said. Craig walks over to it with a smile, opens his wallet, takes out a bill, and quickly rolls it up. Feening, he stops between lines just long enough to take a breath. The rush hits him fast, flowing throughout his body like a wave. He licks and wipes his finger against the mirror and then rubs what was left over on his teeth.
For a moment, Craig stands numb with a smile—but then something hits him. That body, he thought. It really did look familiar. Very familiar. Way too familiar, in fact! Quickly walking over, he looks down at the corpse. Wiping away some of the blood from around the axe blade still lodged into its back, he exposes part of a tattoo. Tears begin to pour down his face.
“April! NO! Oh, god, no!” he screams, for the loss of his wife. Falling to the floor, he pulls the axe out of April’s back and drags her headless corpse onto his lap. Rocking back and forth Craig moans as tears pour down his face.
Racing through is mind, he remembers the faces hanging in the living room. The face I tapped on with his finger, was that yours April?” he thought. Oh, god, the faceless skull that was beside Frank while he sat in his recliner…
“Frank! You mutherfucker!” he spits as he screams. Gently placing April’s body back down on the floor, Craig jumps to his feet and runs back down the hallway. Just as he enters the next room, Frank, who is crouched up against the wall on the other side, swings a machete with all of his might into Craig’s right leg. The machete blade slices through the flesh and tendon of Craig’s knee cap and passes scrapes between the bones: a clean cut.
Craig falls to the floor spinning in circles and spitting curses with raging fury, blood, and pain.
Frank stands and watches.
Aided by the cocaine, it only takes a minute, though, before Craig regains his focus. Clenching his teeth so hard they could shatter, he sets his sights back on Frank. Ignoring his bleeding wound, he crawls toward Frank, intent that he’s going to rip Frank apart with nothing but his bare hands.
Abruptly ending the situation, Frank pulls out a tranquilizer pistol that he took from the kitchen and shoots Craig once in the face and once in the shoulder. Craig falls instantly to the floor.
“Good God, I thought I put enough in those lines of blow to knock him out,” Frank says, dragging Craig’s body into the kitchen. “It’s a good thing I always think of a contingency plan.”
Opening the cupboard, he grabs a cast iron skillet and cranks up a burner on the top of the stove. While waiting for the skillet to heat, Frank ties Craig’s hands together and makes a tourniquet for his leg in order to stop the bleeding. Once the skillet is red-hot, Frank grabs something to hold it with and sears the end of Craig’s leg with a loud hiss. Placing the skillet back on the stove top, he turns the burner off and starts dragging Craig’s body back toward the hallway to the torture room.
In the room, Frank then pulls the rope from under April’s body, he places it over the front of Craig’s chest and under his armpits. Pulling the rope over his shoulder, he drags Craig past the corpse of his dead wife and hoists him up against the cross. Pulling both ends of the rope through two pulleys that are anchored above the X-shaped cross, Frank pulls Craig up into position. Walking over to his workbench, he grabs four spikes and shoves them into his pocket.
“Of all people, I never thought you’d be one of them,” Frank says. “I never imagined that you’d ever betray our family, Craig. Not you.”
Climbing one of the ladders next to the cross, Frank turns Craig to the side and cuts his hands lose. Craig’s arms fall limp as he hangs by his torso. Moving Craig’s arms into position, Frank places them on top of the spikes that were used for April’s crucifixion before he ties them down. Then, pulling the spikes out of his pocket, he hammers them through both of Craig’s hands. Stepping off the ladder, he ties Craig’s legs and then hammers the last two spikes into his former friend’s feet. With the very last tap of the hammer Craig wakes with a scream and his eyes bulge in panic. Looking around the room he try to remember what’s going on.
Frank kicks Craig’s wife over onto her back. “Yeah, I got a really good grip on these babies before I had my way with this fine lady.” Frank laughs and squeezes on the headless corpse’s breasts. Craig screams and struggles to rip his hands free from the spikes, but the rope around his arms and legs won’t give him enough slack.
“Oh god, I thought we were brothers, Frank! How could you stab me in the back like this?”
“Stab you in the back! Stab YOU in the back! You mean the way you betrayed our family, by snitching to the cops!” Frank jumps to his feet. “Oh, and don’t you worry. I’ve already taken care of them. From the lawyers who were involved, all the way down to that piece-of-shit judge.” He rolls April’s corpse back over. “Actually, I wasn’t sure if the Judge was in on your little money making scandal, but I figured I may as well not take any chances.” Walking to the workbench, Frank clears off the mirror; wiping it down with a towel. Sticking his knife into the bag of cocaine, he loads it up and taps it onto the mirror. “Yeah, this is the real stuff buddy.” He says, before chopping it up with a razor blade. After snorting a few lines he chases his nostrils with a few drops of water.
“So… You thought if you turned up enough evidence… to take down our family…” He sniffs, attempting to clear his nose. “…that not only could you have all of us locked up for life, so that you’d be safe, but you thought you could make some serious cash by selling the whole story with a book, too?” He paces the room. “Just fictionalize it up a bit, huh? And then sell the story for royalties in any way you can? Books and movies, the works, huh?” Frank walks to the table and snorts another line. “And who’d ever suspect a thing if you were out on special assignment from Dex while you were working to backstab all of us the whole time, huh? You must have done too many drugs in your lifetime, my friend.” Stabbing his knife blade into the bag of coke, Frank walks over to Craig and climbs the ladder. “Here, snort this shit Craigee boy. This is the real, unlaced stuff.” Craig turns his head away. “I’d hit it, man, if I were you, because this is the last taste you’ll ever get, and I think you need a little help to numb some of that pain, don’t you?” Realizing that Frank is probably going to cut him up sooner, if he doesn’t hit the line, Craig turns his head back toward Frank and snorts from the blade.
“Thanks, Frank. Look, man, I’m really sorry. Hey, we’ve always been best friends. You’ve already got my leg. Just chop off one of my arms, too, if you have to. Anything. But then, just let it go at that. I’ve learned my lesson, man. I know I deserve this. Just don’t kill me. Just don’t kill me, man, please.”
“Aw, you hear that Craigee boy?”
Very faint, but getting louder and louder, the thunderous, roaring hum of over one-hundred motorcycles was in the air.
“Even though the bikes are still a few miles away, that sound is unmistakable, don’t you think?” Frank jumps off the ladder and moves it to the side of the room. “Haha! It’s meeting time, Craigee boy!”
“I thought it wasn’t until Saturday,” Craig says, now realizing he doesn’t have a chance in hell to talk his way out of this one.
“Yeah, well that’s what we wanted you to think.” Frank pauses for a moment. Then he grabs the ladder again, moves it back next to Craig, and climbs a few steps. “Okay, now I’m only going to ask you this once, but… Fuck it, do you want to just take a big snort out of the bag before we continue?”
Craig closes his eyes and nods up and down.
“Okay, but just realize, I’m only doing this because of the friendship that we used to have.” He laughs. “And you’re done for anyway, so what does it matter.”
“Alright,” Craig says, thinking that he will open his mouth, snort, and take-in as much as possible, so that, hopefully, he can overdose. “Alright, yeah. Come on, please, Frank, please.”
Frank grabs the bag and climbs back up the ladder. He raises the bag almost up to Craig’s face, then drops the powder to the floor.
“Psych!” Frank says, with a laugh before he pins down Craig’s head and begins cutting off his face with the razor blade. Craig screams, bites, spits, and struggles with all of his might, but his fight only makes things worse. Aggravated, Frank goes back to the table, grabs his hunting knife, and climbs back up the ladder. He slices deep through both of Craig’s biceps disabling his arms. Next, Frank cuts open Craig’s stomach spilling out his intestines, but not bleeding him to death, before he continues cutting off his face.
By the time Frank has sliced and peeled Craig’s face, the family’s bikes were in the backyard.
Before going to greet them, Frank hangs Craig’s face next to April’s in the living room. “Well, old boy you knew better than to be a snitch,” he says to the face. “We were like brothers, too, weren’t we?” Frank nods and then shakes his head with disappointment. Hanging there, the skin drips with blood as Franks eyes drip with tears. “Motherfucking friends come and go. I’ll miss you brotha, and so will the family that you’ve betrayed. This meeting today is actually to mourn your death. Even though you did us wrong, we all still love you, man, and always will. But now you’ll serve as an example of what happens to the un-loyal.” He walks over and unlocks the backdoor. Dex is the first one to walk in, followed by ten of his bodyguards. The rest of the family stand silently outside, next to their bikes, waiting for the meeting to begin.
“Very good work Frank,” Dex says, as he circles the room looking, admiring the skins of a dozen faces that hang from the ceiling. “We will use these new masks on our next mission. They shall serve as a reminder, for everyone, from now on: this is what happens when members are not loyal to their family. I hope you realize, Frank, that this rare occurrence in our family will only help to make us stronger. Everyone must learn that as a member that you should not bite the hand that feeds you: you don’t snitch, and you sure as hell don’t backstab your own family.” Dex’s voice raises in anger. “To do so is unforgivable, and it will NOT be tolerated!” He circles the room once more, before stopping in front of Frank.
Staring Frank dead in the eyes, smiles, laughs, and says, “Now go out there and give your speech brotha!”
“Me? The new President?” Frank questions, knowing that giving a speech at a meeting like this can only mean one thing. It means that Dex must be stepping down, and that he would now become head of the family.
“You’ve earned it, Frank, and I’m sure that everyone out there will agree. We need some young blood to keep our family running strong, and your loyalty and good judgment for this family have not been matched by anyone.”
With his teeth Frank pulls off his leather gloves, exposing both of his hands that are each missing a finger. He places a hand against his scared face, next to an empty eye socket, and nods in agreement.
“Yes,” he says, “Family for life an’ death!” Then he makes a fist and slams knuckles with the former President.
Be very careful where you choose to dig your hole in life, you may find that it’s too muddy and deep to climb your way back out.
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