Sunday, December 4, 2011

"HELL KNIGHT" Chapter One: Late Arrival

(Quick note beforehand: I had the first three chapters of "Hell Knight" available on Facebook...until someone on FB decided to dump Discussions. I'm putting all three chapters on my blog here for possible readers, then. Sit back, then, and read on...)


Shadow infested the city with night.
Ink-black and foreboding, shadow collected in the unguarded urban pockets. The neglected spaces, nooks, and alleyways…the places where artificial light couldn’t reach at night. Places uncared for, overlooked, all but forgotten. Places where refuse, living or not, was left to rot by the rest of civilization.
The shadow made its home in these areas of the cityscape comfortably.
The people of the city who lived under artificial light during the night ignored the shadow out of instinct…and fear. It was a primal reaction, and understandable. Why look to such places, and to the shadow that blanketed them? It was a fear that had been a part of the ROM of the mainframe that was human consciousness since the creation of the race. There was nothing to be gained from shadow…except for the implicit threat that the shadows offered. The threat that if one were to look into the shadow, something might look back at them.
Humanity had no idea how justified they were in holding that fear.


Humanity could only fear. Humanity didn’t know – couldn’t know that shadow can serve as a conduit. A portal to other places. Other realms where fear held hands with nightmare terror, indescribable tortures, and the most unspeakable of evils.
It was 11:39 Post Meridian, Central Standard Time, on April the 14th, 2006. Good Friday.
It was all about timing, of course…the timing of an unseen, unknowable hand.
There was no one in the immediate area of the alley bathed in shadow off Russell Boulevard close to the heart of St. Louis, Missouri, in the Midwestern region of the United States of America. God’s Country. No one was there to see the shadow that bathed the alley just within its entrance congeal into a nearly solid thing. No one saw the congealed substance issue a dull gleam of unearthly power. For a handful of seconds of time in this world, the shadow of this alley in the heart of God’s Country became a portal. A gateway.
During that handful of seconds, someone fell through the gateway.
It was as if she was part of the transformed shadow in the split-second she pitched forward through it from where she came. She fell on her hands and knees to the rough and broken sidewalk that cared nothing for her arrival. The handful of seconds passed, and the shadow of the alley resumed its ethereal nature.
The woman remained.
She was naked, breathing in heavy gasps the polluted urban air. She was surprised at first how painful the transition was…after a moment of time, her surprise was compounded when she realized the pain was diminishing. And then the pain ceased altogether, except for a discomfort that lingered from her hands and knees. The coarse concrete of the sidewalk had nearly scraped the skin in those places. As she steadied herself, surprise increased to astonishment when she registered the unseasonably warm April air. She felt the light wind that traveled through the urban canyons. The woman was ill-prepared for such things. She had known nothing but pain for so long…now to not simply escape that pain, but be host to other sensations? She did not wish to dwell on such things, as much as she wanted to…for now. She raised to a sitting position on her
knees and began to take in the visual input of her new surroundings with deep brown eyes. Her expression was neutral, but her senses were at full alert, prepared for any possible threat.
There was no one in the immediate area…but if there were, an observer would have immediately noted there was a duality to this woman. She held beauty beyond question, both in her face of seeming Asian ancestry, framed by bobbed hair as black as raven’s feathers, and in the supple curves and sensual features of the rest of her nude body. Nude in more ways than one: except for her head and her eyebrows, one would have had to look closer to realize there was no hair whatsoever anywhere else on her naked body, even in the pubic region; there was even the absence of the far more sublime and finer hairs. With closer inspection one would have noted there was more. It was most apparent in her still-neutral face…of course it held the softness of femininity, but one could just as easily have interpreted that her visage was chiseled from granite. One would also have seen under the seeming softness of her nude skin the well-toned musculature that gave structure to her body. Both in form and presence, she exuded as
much strength as she did allure.
She stood and continued to absorb the city around her…she deliberately avoided even a glance at the shadows from which she had come from.
After a few moments she began to walk, and proceeded down the sidewalk with an unhurried pace.
Toward South Broadway.


For those moments of time it seemed that an unseen, unknowable hand ensured that the woman would not be seen by any within the city.
If so, then what took place next must undoubtedly have been by the design of that great hand, as well.
The homeboys turned onto the street from South Broadway, looking to cut across to Grand Boulevard. The car they rode in was a brand new Chrysler 300C, pimped the hell out, and issued a quaking bass rumble from its top-end stereo system. Its 20-inch rims flashed silver under the streetlights, almost a match for the car’s vibrantly burning metallic red paint. As far as the homeboys were concerned, their ride was the center of the universe.
Inside the sedan that looked like it was pumped up with steroids were the homeboys. G-Riders. Use whatever rap video-furnished cliché you want. There were three of them, all African-American. (Or black. Or brown. Or just plain American. It depends on who one talks to these days.) At the wheel was Mad Dawg, a.k.a. M.A.Dawg…born Marvin Anderson, 23 years old. Co-pilot sitting next to him was T-Bone…born Terry Wilkins, 21 years of age. The last and taking up the back seat, just chillin’, was the pup of the group: Bennie J…born Benjamin Jefferson, who had known 18 years on this earth.
All had criminal records longer than the proverbial arm of a booking officer. Convictions for dealing, assault with a deadly weapon, carjacking and G.T.A., and other assorted crimes…and that was when they were still juveniles. All were considered veterans of their set, hardcore gangstas, and proof positive that one should question why eating one’s young was limited to allegedly lower rungs of the food chain. The three had been buddies since forever, coming up in their hood. All held the same interests, especially the street-born philosophy of getting rich quick and maybe dying in the attempt. All three suffered from the same lack of empathy for their fellow human beings as any borderline sociopath.
They embodied the American Dream at its worst, re-imagined by predatory minds as a free fire zone.
As they cruised down the street all three saw the woman on their right, who walked on the sidewalk in the opposite direction of their route of travel, from under the car’s chopped top.
T-Bone raised his bling-studded sunglasses from his eyes, unsure of what he was seeing. But after a second he burst out, “Check it out, check it OWWWT!”
No longer chillin’, Bennie J sat up in the back and stared. “What the fuck – ?!”
Mad Dawg couldn’t help but smile at the sight. “The hell’s the deal with this hoochie?!”
T-Bone editorialized, “Sweet meat, that’s for sho’!
Bennie J shook his head. “Freak can’t be right in the head, man, walkin’ round naked like dat!”
They cruised past her, and all three homeboys turned their heads at the same time, not taking their eyes off her. That included Mad Dawg, who realized quickly he should be keepin’ his eyes on the fuckin’ road, and turned forward again. He slowed down, still computing what he saw.
Which was exactly what his fellow gangstas were doing. T-Bone turned to him, excited. “Gotta be a ho, Dawg. Jus’ gotta be!”
Mad Dawg brought their whip to a stop. He looked intently at the woman in the rearview mirror. “The hell’s her deal, fellahs? What’chu think?”
Bennie J from the backseat: “Don’ have no fuckin’ clue, Dawg.”
T-Bone responded by looking at the driver with predatory hunger in his eyes. “Maybe she be willin’ to make a deal with us?”
“I dunno.” Dawg looked back at his co-pilot, then back at the woman, still walking away from them. Yeah, he thought, be a sweet deal we’d make wit’ her, whether she likes it or not. But now ain’t the right friggin’ time, we got shit to do. Speaking of deals: the homeboys were in the middle of making a shipment. Five pounds of uncut heroin, seated firmly in the spacious trunk of their 300C with their heaviest artillery. They were supposed to deliver it to the Hot Biscuit, a strip club in the county, and to its manager…Antonio ‘Tony’ Pucci, local captain to the main man Nico Roccoli himself. It’d be a bad fucking idea to be late.
Late, shit! A smile grew on Dawg’s face. We been makin’ such good time, we’ll get there early. And so what if we’re just a little late? We’ll just tell ’em we got stuck in fuckin’ traffic. In spite of the possibility it would have looked bad for them in the eyes of Pucci and maybe even Boss Roccoli, his hormones spoke louder than his brain cells.
Mad Dawg proclaimed, “Shit, let’s find out!” He hit the gas and turned the car around in the direction they came. Toward the woman.
T-Bone bayed at the low ceiling of their ride like the figurative wolf: “Ow!-Ow!-OWWOOO!”

Bennie J just sat in the back with a dubious look on his face. He wasn’t so sure about this shit.
Pointed in the opposite direction, the Chrysler moved leisurely forward until it reached the woman, who was now on its driver’s side. It slowed further until it began to keep pace with her. All four windows of the sedan slid down with automatic grace. Three occupants looked out at her…two with hunger, one with building uncertainty.
If she was aware of them or their vehicle, she gave no indication.
Mad Dawg turned down the volume and poked his head out. “Yo, girl! Where ya goin’?”
T-Bone, the second of three walking clichés, dug into his head for something clever to say…and came up with another cliché. He thought back to this kick-ass movie he saw when he was only seven, Full Metal Jacket, and remembered this Vietnamese ho with sunglasses in it. Since this hoochie was just as pretty and was of the Asian persuasion, too, he honestly believed he was inspired by saying: “Hey, baby! You so horny? Lookin’ to boom-boom?”
Bennie J shot him a glare. “What the fuck’re you doin’?”
T-Bone retorted, “Shuddup, fool!” He turned back to the woman, thinking he was a real ladies’ man. (He never considered the fact he was being racist and positively stupid, which usually went together.) “We can love you long time, baby! We give you all the boom-boom you want!”
The woman stopped walking. Mad Dawg braked in turn, and T-Bone thought to himself, Aw yeah, here we go! She turned to the homeboys in their center of the universe, considered them with still-neutral eyes.
The hell is the deal? It was Mad Dawg’s turn to be a little disquieted, like Bennie J. Then he felt something that didn’t make any sense…it sure as hell didn’t help his sudden sense of unease. She was looking at them, all three of them…but for his part Mad Dawg got the sense she was also looking into him, like his skin was suddenly made out of glass and she could see inside. It was the strangest feeling he ever had in his relatively short life, and he had no idea T-Bone and Bennie J felt the exact same thing. The feeling passed almost as quickly as it came.
When she finally spoke, it was with a velvet-smooth voice that held no accent, like a person who had a perfect understanding of English but did not speak it normally:
“You see my not wearing clothes as…unusual.”
All three homeboys simply stared at her for a brief moment, taken aback by her words. Then, Mad Dawg and T-Bone burst out laughing. T-Bone shrugged and said, “Hey, baby, unusual or not, we ain’t arguin’ wit’ it!”
Bennie J, the only one of the three who didn’t like this from the start, didn’t laugh. He shook his head and said nervously, “Aw man, I had a feelin’. Somethin’ ain’t right about this shit!”
It was then T-Bone’s turn to throw the gangsta in back a glare. “Looks right as rain to me, Bennie, so shut up!” Except…he wouldn’t say that he was starting to get a little uncomfortable with the situation, too.
In spite of his own unease, Mad Dawg’s hormones continued to win out. “What’chu say, girl? Wanna get in? We’ll make your week, guaranteed!”
The woman spoke as if she didn’t hear him. “You are also criminals.”
Mad Dawg blinked. “Huh?”
T-Bone couldn’t help but ask, “How she know we be gangstas?”
Bennie J was getting genuinely agitated with the situation, and took it out on T-Bone. “Take a look at yo’self, motherfucker! Or maybe you think she be profilin’ like the fiveoh? Let’s just go, Dawg!”
Her next words truly surprised them. “I will require those who can assist me. Those who can serve me. You shall do.”
T-Bone didn’t understand…he couldn’t at that moment. “Say what?
Mad Dawg’s eyes narrowed. “The fuck did you say?”
“First, one of you must give me your clothes,” the woman said, authoritative. “Now.”
“Dawg, c’mon, let’s just fuckin’ go!” Bennie J wanted to be anywhere but there with that woman. He couldn’t have explained why…not at that time…but something about her made him want to be somewhere else, and as quickly as possible.
For T-Bone, it was confusion that escalated. “Is she crazy or somethin’?”
“We’re not givin’ you shit, bitch,” Mad Dawg said with menace. He was getting angry with this woman. Who this bitch think she be talkin’ to? Sayin’ we’re gonna fuckin’ serve her and shit?
Bennie J blurted, “Just fuckin’ go, Dawg, let’s go!
The woman looked directly into Dawg’s eyes. “I do not wish to ask this, but I must. I need those who are able to serve me…and I will need clothes. I require such now.”
“Maybe you didn’t hear me, bitch!” Dawg got out of his center of the universe, motivated purely by anger. T-Bone immediately got out the other side. So did Bennie J from Dawg’s side. Reluctantly. Dawg took a few menacing steps toward the nude woman, gesticulating as he spoke. “We’re not givin’ you a fuckin’ thing! We’re sure as hell not gonna be yo fuckin’ servants and shit!”
“It does not matter what you want,” the woman said. “I need such things from you.”
Dawg glared at her. “What the fuck will you do if I don’t, ho? Tell me what you’ll do if I fuckin’ don’t!
T-Bone and Bennie J were behind Dawg, backing him up. T-Bone knew as well as Bennie J how angry their fellow gangsta could get, and besides his increasing desire to just get the hell out of there, he figured this hoochie wasn’t worth making any trouble with. “Yo Dawg, chill, man! She gotta be one of those leather freaks or somethin’, man. You know, they put leashes on each other and they use whips an’ shit, makin’ each other lick their boots an’ freaky crap like dat!”
Meanwhile, Bennie J was on the verge of genuine distress. “C’mon, Dawg, fuckin’ lissen to T and le’s go! C’mon!
“You do not understand what I want.” Her neutral gaze looked directly into Mad Dawg’s eyes. “If need be, I will make you understand. Then you will give me what I require.”
“Fuck you, bitch!” Dawg quickly reached into his jacket and pulled out a butterfly knife. He flicked the pearl-handled blade open with practiced speed and stepped within three feet of the woman.
“Dawg, this bitch ain’t worth it!” T-Bone knew the situation was about to get out of hand, but he had to try. “I got your back, brother, but dammit, she ain’t worth it!
Bennie J was about to lose it himself. “Aw fuck, no! Dawg, get back in the fuckin’ car, man, please! I just wanna go!
“We’re not goin’ anywhere,” Mad Dawg snarled, and held up the butterfly knife only inches from the woman’s face. “Who the fuck you think you are, bitch? You wanna fuckin’ make me understand your shit?! Then you do it, ho! You just fuckin’ make me!


In retrospect not much later that night Mad Dawg, born Marvin Anderson, knew that in the long sad history of human mistakes…challenging this woman ranked among the fucking big ones.
Fifty-four years from this night T-Bone, born Terry Wilkins, will be painlessly slipping away on his deathbed from natural causes, surrounded by the love of his closest family. In his final moments he will remember, with great clarity, the moment his life was changed.
He will remember just how damned fast the woman was.
It happened literally as a series of blurs. The nude woman’s left hand shot upward and through the air in an arc, and chopped into the wrist of Mad Dawg’s knife hand. The force was enough to nearly break that wrist…it easily forced him to lose the knife, which flew a dozen feet away to clatter uselessly on the pavement. As her left hand completed its arc, her right hand blurred forward, palm open. The strike hit the gangsta just below his sternum so hard he was sent flying about four yards backward to crash into the driver’s door of the 300C. Of course, he made a huge dent.
T-Bone and Bennie J gaped at the woman, then looked back at Mad Dawg, semiconscious with his ass on the pavement; he seemed to sit with his back to the dent he just made.
The other two gangstas, unfortunately, decided to follow their friend’s example and got angry. The need to avenge him overrode any form of caution or common sense. T-Bone reached under the front of his jacket and pulled a Smith & Wesson .41 Magnum from under his belt…Bennie J wanted to do the same and get out his Beretta 92F from under the back of his hoodie. Unfortunately for Bennie J, born Benjamin Jefferson, when he tried to pull his nine from the waistband of his pants it snagged onto the back of his shirt.

As he fought with himself to get his gun drawn, T-Bone brought his gun up and like Mad Dawg learned the meaning of making mistakes. The woman closed the distance between them quickly. She grabbed his gun-wrist with both hands, and with a fluid motion that was as graceful as it was powerful twisted and sent T flying in a somersault. He crashed back-first on the concrete, knocked senseless. He tried to get his bearings but the woman kicked him in the face, sending his world into a red haze.
“C’mon, c’mon!” Finally, Bennie J pulled his nine out from behind him. He brought it up…only to have the woman reach out and slap it away with stunning speed. With the same hand, she swung in the opposite direction and hit him so hard across the face with an open backhand he was sent spinning; he lost a considerable degree of his consciousness and all of his balance and collapsed to the sidewalk.
All three hardcore gangstas were brought low in the space of ten seconds.


The three homeboys laid on the uncaring concrete, in considerable pain and barely conscious close to their center of the universe…which had a very big dent. The nude woman considered them for a moment, seemingly hesitant. And then she approached them.
What happened next took about five minutes.
As if it was because of a great, unseen hand, no one else turned onto the street. No one else was there to bear witness.
What happened next would never be spoken of by any of the homeboys. Not even to each other. When she was done, all three of them – hardcore gangstas – were openly crying. All held expressions of shock, of horror…of soul-wrenching sorrow.
They had seen.
“You understand now,” the woman said simply. “My name is Yuki. I require you to serve me. Will you?”
All three said yes, almost desperately, and without hesitation.
With authority, Yuki said, “I need one of you to give me your clothes.” She looked at Bennie J, the skinniest of the three, the only one who wore clothes that while far from being right for Yuki’s lithe frame would have to do. “Yours will be enough for now.”
Bennie J stripped to his underwear and gave his clothes to her, including his prized Nikes. Without hesitation.
Yuki dressed quickly in the relatively bulky men’s wear, forced to secure the belt tightly about her slender waist. The shoes were far too stiff and garish for her tastes, but she had to make do with them, as well. She asked for T-Bone’s magnum, and he gave it to her. She looked at the weapon for a moment…she then looked at Bennie J’s weapon, which was held lamely by the mostly-naked gangsta. She looked at Mad Dawg and said, “Let me see your weapon.”
Dawg pulled it out from its hideaway holster and held it out for her quickly. She simply looked at it. It was a 9 mm Glock-17. Yuki settled on the gun she held at that moment and placed the magnum in one of the inside pockets of her appropriated hoodie. The weapons were of equivalent quality, so it did not matter. Yuki then asked Dawg, “What other weapons do you have?”
“The rest of what we got is in the trunk. I’ll show you.” It took a moment for Dawg to stand…when he did, favoring his midsection, he walked to the rear of the 300C and popped the trunk. Yuki followed him with T-Bone and Bennie J behind her. Dawg stepped aside for her deferentially…she looked down into the deep space and saw several automatic weapons, including ammunition, stored haphazardly with a large wrapped brick. Their heroin shipment.
For the first time, Yuki’s expression was no longer neutral. Her face reflected clear and present disappointment. She mused, “You have no swords.”
Dawg, confused: “Say what?”
She disregarded his question with silence. After a moment, she considered the brick in the trunk. “What exactly is this?”
Mad Dawg told her. “We were gonna sell it to somebody,” he added.
And then Yuki looked into Dawg again. This delivery was of high priority to him, she knew, but there was more. She could feel it…the reason she was here. “Tell me who will be buying this. Tell me everything you know about them. Now.”
Without hesitation, Dawg told her everything he could about Antonio Pucci. Where they would be going to make the delivery. How Pucci worked for Nico Roccoli. As he did, Yuki looked inside him and could see into his memories. She saw Pucci –
Instantly, she knew.
Yuki knew that was where she had to begin.
She thought for a moment, and then she spoke. “You will go to your destination for your…deal. I will take two of the weapons you have stored here…but I will still need a sword.”
T-Bone nodded and offered, “I know a place where you can get a sword.”


The 300C pulled up to a closed pawn shop several minutes later. Yuki stepped out from the back and approached the shop. She saw what T-Bone described on the way immediately. It was in the window on clear display behind iron security bars:

A Japanese backsword. A katana. She gazed at the gentle curvature of the weapon, and was struck by how…ironic this was.
She walked up to the door of the shop but Bennie J, sitting in the back, shouted out to her with genuine concern. “Whoa, wait! You can’t just get it, the place has alarms!”
Yuki stopped, and her eyes narrowed as she looked at the door. She saw the signage that bore warning of the establishment’s silent alarm system. She reached out with her senses, and…yes, she could feel it. Electric current connected to the lock and frame of the door.
The woman closed her eyes…and something within her reached out invisibly.
The homeboys looked out from their car, watching. They watched as the woman stood there for a moment…and then she proceeded forward again. She reached the door and kicked it inward in spite of its lock.
No alarms sounded, silent or otherwise.
Yuki walked inside, stepped behind the window, and took the sword that was still in its scabbard. She unsheathed the blade and examined it closely. She did not expect something truly exemplary, and she was not disappointed. The weapon was sturdy enough, but it was forged for the sake of commerce. It was not made for the sake of true combat, and would not withstand such for too long.
For the moment, however, it would be enough. Yuki re-sheathed the katana and walked out. She got back into the car and it took off.
In the back seat, next to Bennie J in his underwear, the woman announced, “We will go to your destination, as I said. But understand this: from this moment you will serve me, and your deal will not take place. You will never meet the one you must deal with.”
All three homeboys nodded, without hesitation. Mad Dawg, with conviction, said, “We’ll do anything for you, Yuki. Anything.”
“I know,” she said quietly.
Bennie J thought of something. “Uh…so what’s going on? What do you want us to do?”
Yuki looked at him with eyes of resolve. “I will need your assistance…because there are many at your destination I will have to kill.”
Then she told them what would have to be done.

This story is the copyright (2006) of Charles Spencer, and is the sole property of the author. No part of this story may be reproduced or transmitted, by electronic means or otherwise, without the express permission of the author.

No comments:

Post a Comment