Hyde Mansion, Ward's Office
I am where I am because I have proven time and again that I have no fear. I can stare down evil and smile. I am steel. But this... this is putting my nerves to the test...
"Sammy, Sammy, Sammy... I don't know why you're choosing to be so difficult,
" Ward said with a melodic tone, enriched with false compassion. He sat behind his massive marble desk, black as night, and held his hands together as if in prayer as he looked ahead at the so called Sammy. I stood just to Ward's side, my 9mm pistol trained on Sammy's forehead while Jackie, Ward's Number Two, stood directly behind this poor lad. Jackie's black business suit was covered in a clear plastic apron that was splattered with crimson. There was blood all over, but none of it belonged to him. The giant of a man, standing at nearly seven feet tall, towered over Sammy, his eyes boring down into the latter's skull with such hateful intensity.
"Your people are dead,
" Ward explained. "Your partners are now my partners. You've lost. The rest is just a formality. I want your stash, your weapons, your money that you've stowed away for a rainy day. I want to know where it is and I want access to it. It's mine now. I am the storm.
" Ward leaned forward and stared at Sammy as if he were reading a book and having trouble comprehending some of the words. I've seen him do this a lot and it seems pretty odd each and every time it happens.
I'm not easily grossed out, but my stomach had begun to churn as I looked at poor Sammy. His ears had been ripped off, leaving tattered bloody holes where they had once resided. Jackie had grotesquely detached them with his bare hands and placed them into Sammy's lap to make sure that the sorry sap could see them anytime he looked down to hide from Ward's gaze. To give Sammy a closer look, Jackie had also been instructed to pull one of Sammy's eyeballs out of its socket. It was left dangling by loose tendons, bouncing off of and rolling upon Sammy's cheekbone every time the man moved his head in the slightest. His teeth were all but gone, replaced by jagged, broken remnants living in a mouth that constantly drooled out blood. Sammy's arms were tied behind his back while he sat in that chair. His fingers had become jagged, broken, useless appendages. And yet, even though this man was ruined, he still held strong. I had to admire him for that.
In response, Sammy spit blood out of his mouth, hitting Ward in the face with a few of the droplets. Ward didn't even blink.
I was assigned this job to take Ward down. The Boogeyman of England. I've let terrible things happen, witnessed mortifying events all in an effort to get closer to him. I've used every trick the academy taught me to deal with the psychological backlash of it all. I keep having to tell myself that it's for the greater good. It will all be worth it in the end when I take him down. This is why I got into law enforcement. I am the knight that will slay the dragon.
"Fine. I didn't want it to come to this, but you've left me no other alternative, Sammy. This one is on you. Jackie, bring in the boy.
" Sammy's one good eye widened and his chin dropped. Jackie stepped out of the room for just a moment before returning with a very young boy under his arm, carrying him like a sack of potatoes. There was duct tape over the boy's mouth and ropes binding his wrists and ankles. Jackie stood the boy upright just beside Ward before returning to his position behind Sammy. The broken man squealed and panicked, growled and pleaded.
"No! No! Please! You son of a... !
" His words were slurred and sloppy through gargled blood and broken teeth, but Ward heard him perfectly.
"Your son, Jason, looks just like you,
" he said as he analyzed the boy whose cheeks were wet with tears. "Well, I supposed I should say he looks just like you used to.
" Ward's smile was one of the creepiest things I have ever witnessed. It was like a silent threat to anyone who had to bear witness to it. This was going too far... Sammy was the leader of a very prominent gang in England. He didn't make it to the top by being sloppy. He was a ghost who used to have nearly 200 soldiers under his command. How in the hell did Hyde find him? How in the hell did he find his kid
? Ward opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out a large kitchen knife that had brown crust along the sharpest edge of it. I knew dried blood when I saw it. He held the knife to the boy's neck with one hand and gripped his hair with another, preventing the him from moving. "Now, Sammy. This is going to be the final time I ask. I think the consequences are self explanatory. Where. Is. The. Stash.
"Oh God, I'm so sorry. Jason, I'm so sorry. It's.. oh God, alright, I'll tell you! I'll fucking tell you, just let him go!
" Sammy's voice started with fear and ended in hatred. Every nerve in my body was exploding. I was not going to watch this man kill a child. I looked at Ward, my lips curling up. You so much as nick that boy, and I'm going to fucking kill you
. Suddenly Ward's attention was off of Sammy. Ward was looking at me. Directly
at me. And there it was... that fucking smile.
And then it was like someone hit a switch.
" Ward exclaimed. "I knew you would see reason. Jackie, take the ropes off the man, he's been through quite enough!
" As he gave the order, Ward took his knife and made quick work of the little boy's bonds, letting them fall to the floor before taking off the tape that covered his mouth. "Jason, I'm truly very sorry for the trouble. I hope you don't take it personally. This was just business between your father and I.
" He gave the boy a nod and messed up his hair with a pat usually reserved for dogs. "Go on now,
" he encouraged. Finally freed, Sammy stood up and took Jason in a messy hug as he wept. "Ah, you see there. That's what I like to see. You know, Jason, I never really knew my father. Treasure this time you have with him. This time that I have gifted you both. Jackie, please get the information we need from Sammy as you see them out. Drop them off at the hospital, and make sure the bills get taken care of, our treat.
I couldn't believe it. In an instant, it was like everything changed. His demeanor, the way he carried himself. It was like an entirely different person. I watched as Jackie led Sammy and his son out of the room, leaving me alone in there with the notorious Mr. Hyde.
"You just... You're just letting them go? After all that?
" It wasn't disappointment in my voice. In truth, I was absolutely relieved. I was just baffled, utterly confused. Ward stood up slowly and walked over to me. I holstered my gun awkwardly and tried to stand strong. Tried to hide the anxiety that his mere presence gave me.
"Of course, Thomas. We got what we wanted. And now that man is going to live out the rest of his days knowing that he's breathing because I allowed it. He's going to see his son's face and know that I, Ward Hyde, had it clutched in my hand under the grave threat of a knife and that I could do it again at any moment that I so desire. I won, Thomas. Any further bloodshed would be excessive and inhumane. I mean, come on, what do you take me for? A monster?
He was standing face to face with me, his nose was but a few inches from mine. He stopped breathing. He just stared... unblinking. Unmoving...
"No, boss, I would never-
" His hand pushed my chin up with inhuman speed. Suddenly I was looking at the ceiling. I heard it before I felt it. It sounded like an orange being crushed. There was a pinch at my neck. It felt like it was happening in slow motion, but I knew that this was being done within a fraction of a second. I could see my fluids spraying the otherwise pristine white walls of the office. Ward's hand left my chin, giving me back control of my own head. As I looked back down I saw his face. His mouth was covered in blood and a fountain of crimson, coming from me, was showering his dark suit. There was a mangled chunk of meat in his teeth. He spit it back at me, hitting me in the face. It was skin... it was my neck... I held my hands up, trying to cover the horrific hole that Ward created, but the blood could not be contained. My life force was slipping away. The room was beginning to blur. My legs gave out. Before I knew it, I was on the ground staring up at him. Fuck him, this fucking guy. Was he... was he still smiling
?! And then the darkness came... everything was black...
Jackie opened the door to see Ward covered in blood, standing over Thomas' limp body settled in a pool of its own fluids.
"What happened, boss?
" the giant asked with genuine concern.
"Nothing I couldn't handle. Please take Agent Thomas Nelson here and dispose of him.
" Jackie repeated, confused.
"Apparently so. Shame on me for not reading him sooner,
" Ward said, dismissively. Jackie did as he was told and dragged out the body. The office would need to be completely recarpeted and painted, but that would be a task for a different day. Ward sat down in his chair once more. Now that that
business was settled, it was time to address what was next. He noticed a few letters in his mail bin and snatched them up, analyzing each envelope. As soon as he got to the one with the waxed seal, he immediately discarded the others. He just stared at it for a moment, considering the possibilities of its purpose. Finally he broke the seal and began to read...
The Next Day
Library “To a new world of gods and monsters!”
Hyde remained silent, shrouded in shadow as he leaned against a bookshelf, taking in all of the information. He had hopped on a plane immediately and made the grueling trek to the vampire's abode. He made no effort to extend false courtesy's to the rest of the council beyond a slight nod of recognition if their eyes should meet. Dracula was gone and no one really knew why... And here was the Phantom hoping to create a kingdom of his own while the alleged king was away. He took in Talbot's points and the hellspawn's as well. The walking fish threw in his two cents for good measure, but nothing that had been said would lead toward a resolution for the initial problem.
"The self-appointed King of the Night is gone and we are comfortable with saying that some Doctor Pretorius is responsible?
" Ward shook his head dismissively. "One must consider what it would take to bring down the Vampire King by force and once you've imagined what that entity was capable of, then you'll have a better shot as putting a name to it.
" He pushed himself off the bookshelf and began to pace slowly. "Phantom, I'm afraid I have no interest in your utopia of horror,
" he declared. Ward had his own kingdom to run. "but I am interested in what anyone knows about this Pretorius character. Who is he? What is he? What can he do and does he have a reason to come after us next?
Ward let his inquiries marinate as his gaze met each and every face in the room, trying to find some twitch, some tell that would give away a clue about his associates' motives. As a rule, he promised Dracula not to invade the minds of his fellows on the council unless it begame absolutely necessary, and Ward never broke his promises.