by Hitman 44077
A December afternoon unfolded in Central City, even as its citizens went about their business in the best manner possible. That was easier said than done, obviously, with the fact that an arsonist known as Firefist had recently set his sights on attacking the city and its people.
These recent events were on the mind of a carpenter who’d recently returned to his latest job working on a home located at 4371 Bates Street. The somewhat-heavyset man stepped from his vehicle and walked toward the house. He stared at the structure with caution, despite having worked there for the last few days. The appearance of the home was a general mess, yet someone was willing to pay for its repairs. It still left the carpenter with an odd feeling of unrest.
I guess I shouldn’t be picky about the jobs I take, with Christmas coming up and all, he thought as he walked toward the front door. Actually, I should be grateful I’ve got work at all, with what’s been happening lately. That, and the fact the old man pays so well, even if he’s some weirdo.
The carpenter stopped at the front door and knocked three times. After a moment, he rubbed his thick moustache and took another glance around. The place’d be more fitting for Halloween than some ambitious project, he thought as he started reaching for his pocket. He pulled out a stick of gum and started to chew it, then turned away from the front door and resumed his thoughts. Damn cigarettes are gonna kill me — health-wise and in my wallet. Maybe if–
“Mr. Lubinski!” a loud voice called out from behind. The faintest sign of welcome did nothing to stop the carpenter from nearly choking on the gum he was chewing. He regained his composure and promptly spit the gum back into its wrapper.
“Mr. Corterov,” Lubinski answered with a nervous smile. “Yeah, I’m — uh, back to continue painting.”
“I see,” Jorman Corterov replied with little emotion. “I appreciate your… eagerness to continue your work, but I would much prefer the specific schedule I discussed with you.”
“Yeah, I know — arrive early in the morning and leave before nightfall — the usual dayshift thing. I get it,” Lubinski agreed. “Today I ran behind, thanks to the traffic. I’d love to make up the time, you know, for the holidays.”
A look of disagreement started to form on Corterov’s face. He looked Lubinski in the eyes, then read the name badge on his work shirt. “Mr. Lubinski — Gerald, if I may,” Corterov began with caution in his thick Markovian accent. “Between you and I, I would expect my wishes to be followed. Surely with the amount I’m paying you, there wouldn’t be any thoughts of being cheated. As far as I am concerned, you have earned your full pay for the day. That said, I would prefer to retain you throughout the remodeling of my home. Please, do not make the choice for me.”
Gerald Lubinski stared at the gray-haired man and his cold expression staring back at him. He felt a cold shiver run down his back and answered meekly, “Yeah, o’ course.”
Corterov responded with a small smile. “I am glad to see we agree.”
The sky slowly grew darker as the two men had engaged in conversation. “Look, thanks a lot for — ya know, keeping me on. You don’t mind if I grab my coat before I leave? I left it inside earlier, ’cause it was warmer, but now, well, it’s freakin’ cold.”
“All right,” Corterov said, doing what he could to conceal his anger. “Hurry up.”
“I swear, I’ll just grab it and split. Thanks!” Gerald said, appreciatively. He quickly ran inside the home, not noticing the cold glare Corterov was giving him.
Within the home, Gerald moved around rather quickly, walking up a set of stairs as he searched for the room he’d began work on this day. It wasn’t long, and soon, he’d opened the door to the room he’d been working on. There it is, he thought pleasantly, moving toward the coat that rested on the floor near certain tools and paint containers. He slowly picked up the coat and put it on, then walked outside the room and started to shut the door when he heard something rustling from a nearby room.
What’s that? Gerald thought, unsure whether or not to approach the door. That’s bizarre. I could be mistaken, but I think that’s the first room I worked on.
The rustling grew louder, putting Gerald on edge. The sound of metal banging about only furthered the growing fear in the middle-aged man. He began to sweat even as, against his better judgement, he started to reach for the doorknob.
Gerald opened the door slowly and entered the dark room. He rubbed his hand against the wall, even as the growl of an animal started to emanate from within the room. He finally gave up trying to find the light switch and pulled out a flashlight from his work belt. He frantically tried to turn it on even as the growls grew louder, more menacing. Crap! he thought as his heart raced, and he finally flipped the flashlight switch on. He pointed it toward the area of the room where the growls seemed to be coming from. The flashlight stopped upon a covered-up box — a cage?
What the hell is that?! Gerald thought as he slowly moved toward the device. Upon reaching it, Gerald slowly pulled up the black sheet covering the box — which was actually a cage, as he could now see for himself. He slowly moved the flashlight toward the area where something was moving.
Elsewhere in the house, Jorman Corterov eyed the clock on his wall, one of the few things he’d unpacked after arriving a month and a half earlier. Mr. Lubinski should have found his coat by now, the older man thought, equally annoyed and concerned at the same time. I should have simply grabbed the coat myself. I haven’t the desire to attract attention, after all.
Corterov was rocked from his thoughts by the sudden scream, and he raced as fast as he could toward its source. I was afraid this would happen! he thought frantically. Up the stairs, he noticed a door ajar and heard a gurgling sound. He ran quickly toward the door and pushed it open. He reached for the flashlight and picked it up. Using the flashlight, he located the light-switch for the room and quickly flipped it. His eyes met the sight of the dead carpenter — and the carpenter’s killer.
“Dear God,” he said in Markovian dialect, slowly closing his eyes and resigned to what he’d just witnessed.