Home > KINGDOM FALL (Underworld Kings)

KINGDOM FALL (Underworld Kings)
Author: A. Zavarelli








The Rolls Royce pulls to a stop in front of Butcher and Son, and Luca meets my gaze in the rearview mirror.

“Would you like me to wait, Mr. Scarcello?”

“No.” I reach for the door handle. “I’ll call for you when I’m ready to return to the city.”

He bows his head and waits for me to exit the vehicle before quietly rolling away. I glance at my phone briefly to note the time before the door to the abandoned slaughterhouse opens, and one of Marchesi’s men gestures me inside.

“Nice to see you again, Mr. Scarcello,” he says. “Mr. Marchesi is waiting for you in the back.”

I nod in response and head for my intended business. My visit to New York will not be a lengthy one, and I’m eager to get it over with, so I can return to my obligations at home.

Behind the aged plastic door curtain, I find Marchesi sipping from a mug of coffee at one of the old butcher tables while he reads the paper. He glances up, startling slightly at my presence.

“Goddamn, we need to put a bell on you, Scarcello.” He chuckles. “You always manage to scare the shit out of me.”

I don’t reply. It’s something I’ve heard many times before, and why it should surprise him that I move quietly, I have no idea. It’s to my benefit, and knowing my occupation and reputation, he should expect nothing less.

“It’s good to see you again.” He removes a white envelope from his pocket and slides it across the table to me. “The Ruin appreciates you making the trip to Desolation to assist us with this case.”

“It’s not a problem,” I answer curtly, sliding the envelope into my jacket pocket. This isn’t my first song and dance with the underground network in New York. Some call them a mafia outfit. Some just call them criminals. I don’t call them anything except clients. They aren’t affiliated with The Society, so we are nothing more than associates.

“There’s half up front,” he tells me. “I’ll be around when you finish for final payment. Just come find me. The client is in the freezer.”

I nod and leave him to his coffee while I slip into the back where the old freezers have been left to collect dust. It’s not my first visit to Butcher and Son, and I doubt it will be the last. Though I have no affiliation with The Ruin itself, they often contract my services when their more primitive methods fail to gather the intel they need, or the target is a trickier subject that requires discretion. Today, I have traveled to Desolation, New York, to extract information from a man I don’t know, one I don’t care to know. To me, he is just a number. He is a job to complete. I always complete my assignments, no matter how gruesome the task might be. They call me The Debt Collector for a reason. I never walk away from a target without payment, be it flesh or information.

The freezer door creaks open under the weight of my grip, and the musty odor of dust combines with the permanent decay of blood. This is why they bring the clients here. Time does not erode that smell or the stains on the floor. It foreshadows what’s to come, and it does a number on the human psyche to wait in such conditions, uncertain of the outcome.

I lock eyes with the man bound and hanging by his wrists from a butcher’s hook. He looks to be in his late forties with thinning hair and a pot belly. He’s wearing a yellow fishing shirt and khaki pants that are already stained with his piss. He reeks of desperation as his gaze meets mine, and he attempts to mumble something through the cloth gag in his mouth, but I have no interest in hearing anything just yet.

I waste no time setting down my medical bag and removing my suit jacket, hanging it onto one of the empty hooks. While he groans out muffled fragments of sentences, I roll up my sleeves and slip on some latex gloves. Then I unravel my tool kit, laying it out on one of the shelves before making my first selection, a filet knife.

I always start with primitive torture first. It’s not an endgame. It’s a warmup. From experience, I have learned that psychological torture wins every time. First, you have to bloody them up and exhaust them by depleting their adrenaline response. The crash will always tip the results in my favor. Despite what many of my contractors like to believe, I don’t possess any special talent, and this isn’t an art form. I simply understand the laws of human nature.

“I’m here to extract the information you’ve been withholding,” I begin calmly. “And I want to be clear, when you meet with me, you only have two options left. This is a simple exchange of blood and flesh. You will give me what I require, or you will die a slow, brutal death. Do you understand?”

He starts to squirm in his restraints, moaning again, pleading with words I don’t care to understand.

“I’m not big on socializing,” I tell him. “So, if you decide you’re ready to admit the truth, I want you to tap your foot on the floor three times, but only when you’re truly willing.” I hold the knife up to his throat. “If you lie to me or waste my time, I guarantee the price will be more than you are able to pay.”

He falls completely still, and I return the knife to my tool kit, retrieving the plastic case of carbon steel hooks.

“I hear you’re a fan of fishing.” I pluck a hook from the case and examine it between my fingers. “You’ve probably filleted quite a number of them, I would imagine. I’m curious, though, if you keep them all for yourself, or do you prefer to catch and release?”

He mumbles a response, and when I turn around again, sweat is beading on his brow. He’s renewed his fight against the restraints, straining his arms and his legs as I approach.

“I’m not big on fish myself,” I confess as I grab his face and poke the barbed point against his cheek. “I think perhaps it’s the texture or the smell. It doesn’t appeal to me.”

He screeches as the hook pierces his flesh, his nostrils flaring as blood drips down his neck. His muffled pleas resume, but he hasn’t reached a point of desperation to tap out. It’s human nature to want to believe our love and loyalty for our family will outweigh any adversity, but I know intimately that this is simply not true. Soon, he will understand there is nothing to be gained by trying to prevent his brother’s fate.

I continue my task, spearing him with a fistful of hooks, decorating his cheeks like a tacky Christmas ornament. After about two minutes, I suspect his adrenaline is primed, and he’s not feeling the same rush of fear as he did initially, so it’s time to move on. I discard the hooks and reach for the filet knife once again.

“Death by a thousand cuts,” I murmur, examining my reflection in the shiny blade. “I don’t know that it’s the worst way to die, but I think it might be the most poetic.”

More sniffling, begging, and tears ensue as I proceed to carve him up like a pumpkin, slicing off bits of flesh and tossing them to the floor like meat scraps. I take chunks from his arms and move on to his back, cutting through the shirt to gain access. He vomits five minutes in and then passes out. I take the opportunity to adjust his position for the next phase. Tying the rope around his wrists, I loop it through the ceiling hook and use the pre-existing pulley system to leverage his weight.

As I’m considering rousing him for the sake of efficiency, my phone rings, and I glance at the screen in frustration, only to see Gwen’s name on the display. I step out of the freezer for a moment, shutting the door behind me.

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