The smoke from Malcolm’s revolver calmly flowed from the barrel until the stench of gunpowder clouded his mind. Ronny gazed down at Dez, who was lying in a pool of blood with a needle stuck in his arm, going into a violent seizure. He glanced back up towards his brother. “You shot him,” he said, a slight grin on his face. Malcolm felt his heart drop and entire body go numb as he watched Dez’s intense shakes slowly fade into light shivers. Before the two could even blink, he ceased. Malcolm stepped over to Dez’s body, slowly bending down to examine him. “He’s not breathing,” he whispered.
“Excellent,” Ronny replied.
“No. No it’s not. I didn’t mean to do it.” Malcolm placed his hand over Dez’s face, attempting to shut his eyes, but his eyelids only rose back up. “You can’t do that,” Ronny injected. “Once someone dies, they’re stuck that way. Deal with it.” Malcolm continued to hover over Dez, staring into his eyes, praying they’d shift. “I’d suggest you don’t stare into them. It gives me the creeps.” Malcolm had forgotten about the guilt. In the depths of violence, it’s easy to lose sight of the fundamentals. And after three years out of the business, he was virtually blind, desperately grasping at straws, trying to recall the once emotionless task that was taking another man’s life.
Ronny let out an exaggerated sigh. “I knew I should have done it. You move too slow. I’m not sure if you have the heart to kill anymore.”
“Shut the hell up,” Malcolm barked back. He felt himself growing light-headed, faint almost. He reached for the nearest chair, slumping down because he could fall to the floor. “We can’t just go around shooting everyone we think is a part of the problem.”
“You heard Dad. Leave no man standing. He said that for a good reason!”
“I know,” Malcolm replied, rubbing his forehead out of frustration. “But…he also told us to use our better judgment.
Rule No. 1: Observe your surroundings. Watch the behavior of those around you. Always apply wise judgment. Do the knowledge.
“You never want the body count to grow too high,” he continued. “A blood trail too long attracts all kinds of attention.”
“In this city, a massive crime can slip by unnoticed,” Ronny replied. “Be honest, who do you think will be looking for some worthless junkie?”
“You don’t get it, Malcolm shouted.”
“No, you don’t get it. He’s a pawn, Malcolm. That’s all he ever was.” And Ronny was right. Dez had merely been a small-time drug runner for Mr. Luciano; a clocker who conducted most of his business on park benches, rarely ever making a profit since he used most of his own product. His death was more of a gain, versus a severe loss, for his boss.
“As far as I’m concerned, Luciano should give you a medal,” Ronny added.
They both stared back down at Dez’s lifeless body lying only a few feet away from them, eyes wide open now. Ronny was unmoved by the sight, but Malcolm could sense a feeling manifesting deep within his core. He felt Dez’s soul seeping through his eyes, finding refuge in his already damaged psyche. Or was it the other way around? Had Malcolm’s soul been torn from his body and trapped in the hollowness of a dead man’s stare?
“We should keep moving,” Ronny said, motioning towards the door. Malcolm heard his voice, but couldn’t allow himself to leave the scene. “You wanna give him a funeral? Let’s go!”
Once they got in the car, Ronny began frantically searching beneath the passenger seat. “What the hell are you looking for,” Malcolm asked. Ronny continued searching around the car before responding. “I wanted to show you something. There’s this guy…he’s a killer. Everyone refers to him as ‘The Guillotine.’ No one knows where he lives, where he came from, or what he looks like. Everyone except for his victims.” Ronny finally found what he was searching for lying along the backseat: a newspaper article in the Daily Gazette. He handed it to Malcolm to see. At the top of the page in bold-face letters read: 36 Mutilated Bodies Found in Downtown Warehouse. “This guy lives his life in the shadows. Detectives still haven’t been able to determine what the motive is behind the killings. But from the murders, they know he’s highly skilled with swords, knives, machetes. Things of that nature. Not once have I heard of this guy ever using a gun to kill. It’s always death by decapitation. I’m surprised you haven’t heard of him.” Malcolm shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe it was for the better,” he thought. The last thing he needed on his mind was some deranged psychopath who murdered for kicks. But Malcolm’s curiosity was beginning to eat away at him. “How long have you known about this guy?”
“He’s been doing this for nearly a year, maybe even longer,” Ronny exclaimed. “And the pattern he maneuvers in, it’s the craziest thing. There’ll be weeks of silence. Then, out of nowhere, ten torsos are found floating in the harbor. He always murders in tens. After that, more silence. The precision he moves with, you’d think there was a small army behind it!”
“How do you know it’s not a group,” Malcolm asked.
Ronny’s face lit up at the question, as if he had been waited for it all along. “It’s all in the technique. If you analyze the style of the killings…each one is identical in nature. He always severs the head, along with the limbs. And in some cases, it’s much more than that. And the proverbs…the proverbs! Look at this.” Ronny pulled a small piece of paper from his coat pocket. On it was a set of Chinese characters. Malcolm glanced at the paper, immediately handing it back to him. “You know I can’t read that.”
“It’s a verse from The Art of War,” Ronny responded. “The cops found it written on a victim’s chest that they found at the loading docks last month. It means: ‘So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose. If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.’ Here’s another one.” Ronny turned the paper over, revealing another set of characters. “‘Make a sound in the east, then strike in the west.’ This was from a killing only two weeks ago. The police spend so much time focusing on the factors of one murder; he’s already planning the next one, possibly even committing it. It’s all one big game for him. If it were a group, someone would get careless and screw everything up. This guy…he’s mastered the power of one. I have to meet him. We need someone with his proficiency in ‘the beehive.’”
Rule No. 10: Preserve the beehive. No man shall ever work idle, for each one’s efforts greatly benefit the next.
Malcolm eyed his brother suspiciously. The tone of his voice indicated how serious this was for him. His obsession with the killer, from his precise knowledge of the murders to the idea of even aligning himself with him, deeply disturbed Malcolm. Ronny was carelessly crossing over into a dark and sinister realm. He first noticed it back at The Apollo; the callous glare in his eyes as he shot a man in cold blood, almost as if he were born to do so. It was a far cry from the small child whose hand he held at their mother’s funeral ten years ago. “How could he become a killer,” Malcolm asked himself. Maybe the same change had occurred in him. The only difference being he had no one to point it out.
Malcolm pulled up to Mr. Luciano’s majestic, Italianate Victorian mansion located on the outskirts of the illuminated city. “We’re here,” he said, reluctantly reaching for the glove compartment to retrieve his revolver. He fixed his attention on Ronny. “Promise me that when we get in here, you won’t get trigger happy. Dad's got a low profile to maintain. I don't want you to screw that up.”
A wave of disbelief came over Ronny’s face. “Who do you think you're talking to? I'd take my own life before insulting the family! It means everything to me. You of all people should know that.”
Malcolm switched his focus back towards the towering mansion. “We’ll see.”
The two stepped out of the car and made their way up the granite marble stair set, leading to what was most certainly a brush with the angels of Satan himself.