by Chris Nardone
Scott McGee couldn't find a way out of the thick, ominous fog. It was all around him, tendrils of the mist reaching out like ghostly fingers. Looking down, McGee saw he stood on a polished, hardwood floor.
It looked like... But how the hell had he gotten here? And why was there fog?
A cacophony of cheers assaulted his ears, bellowing out the same name over and over.
"SLAM-MER! SLAM-MER! SLAM-MER!"
McGee was terrified. He couldn't see the crowd, could only hear them. Were they coming after him? Would they attack him in a blood-curdling frenzy and tear his body limb from limb?
McGee heard what sounded like a ball bouncing on the hardwood floor. It got louder...and louder. McGee jerked his head all around, wanting desperately to know where he was and why he was here. In his mind, he heard voices shouting in alarm, their curses etched with worry. McGee's breaths came faster now, his heart threatening to explode inside his chest.
Up ahead, a dark shape emerged from the white mist. McGee walked toward it, not knowing what he would find, but wanting to leave this place.
A moment later, his view shifted: impossibly, he was looking down from a point a few feet above his own shoulders. He watched himself approach the shadowy bulk, could see the fear contorting his face. Then there was a blinding explosion. McGee saw himself cowering on the hardwood floor, covered in blood, gore and bits of flesh. A scream erupted from the prone figure...
Scott McGee sat up suddenly, arms straining against something that seemed to be holding him back. He opened his eyes to find himself tangled in the sheets in his bed, in his spare, one-bedroom housing unit. His chest ached from the stress of the nightmare, sweat poured from his handsome, stubbled face. His gun and badge still lay on the night table undisturbed. McGee slowly got to his feet and made his way to the bathroom, turning on the faucet, splashing cold water onto his cheeks. He looked into the mirror at his black hair, his rugged good looks and deep blue eyes--at one time many considered them to be soft and bright. Now they were cold and narrow, with bags beginning to form underneath.
The phone unit beeped on the night table next to his bed, and McGee turned slowly and sauntered over to it, picking up the unit.
"Yeah?" he said lazily into the mouthpiece.
The voice was one of his colleagues in Enforcement, a man named Cecil Jones. "Scott, we need you at the housing unit, designation 63 Wylie Ave."
"Plenty," Jones said. "We need you here ASAP."
"Sure. I've got nothing better to do," McGee said sarcastically.
Jones seemed to ignore the wisecrack. "Oh, and if I were you, I'd hold off on breakfast."
"I'll wear one of my tropical-print shirts, how's that? Then the puke won't show."
"Just get here...Slammer!"
"How many times have I told you not to..."
A dial tone sounded.
"...call me that."
McGee knew this was going to be a fun-filled day.
A half hour later, McGee pulled his sleek, sporty, jet-black transport unit up to the structure at 63 Wylie Ave. Cordoned off by Enforcement, McGee stepped out of his unit, looking for Jones. McGee spotted the tall, heavy-set man seconds later and strode over. Jones' bushy eyebrows arched at McGee's wild, multi-colored, flowery-print shirt that didn't go well with his dress slacks.
"You look like shit," Jones said.
"Lookin' more stylish than you, chubby!" McGee shot back.
Jones motioned to McGee by cocking his head. "This way."
McGee took three strides, then stopped. His nose twitched as a vile emanation reached him. "Oh, god! What's that smell?"
"In the house," Jones said.
It was an old, one-story, dilapidated structure long since abandoned. It stood at the end of the block, away from the other housing units. Scott McGee followed Cecil Jones onto the porch and stepped inside. The stench grew worse.
"You're gonna need this," Jones said, pulling a face mask from his jacket pocket.
McGee put it on as the two men moved down the main hallway. Jones opened a door which led to the basement and proceeded down the stairs. McGee slowly followed him. McGee wasn't half-way down when the shock and horror hit him.
Strewn throughout the basement were corpses, most of which were severely decomposed. A few were still ripe and McGee noticed the deep cuts and slashes. Jones hauled out a digitized, hand-held notepad. "A citizen called in the complaint of a foul smell. When our boys got here, this is what they found. Sixteen bodies from what we gathered. The fuck-up that did this is one sick, son of a bitch."
"What kind of victims are we looking at here?"
"Women mostly," Jones answered. "A few young boys."
"Witnesses see anyone coming and going from the place?" McGee asked.
Jones gave a thin smile, his eyes flashing with amusement. "This is the good part, Scott. One of the citizens got a pretty good look at our suspect."
McGee continued to stare at Jones, waiting for him to spill it. Jones punched a few buttons on the notepad. "This is the description that was given."
McGee took one look at the computerized sketch, feeling as though his stomach was going to drop into his asshole. "He looks familiar," McGee rasped.
"It's David Jansen," Jones stated.
"Ron Jansen's son?"
McGee felt utterly sick as the digitized image continued to mesmerize him, visions of last night's dream flooding back. If McGee had a mirror, he would have noticed his face going stark white, and the sweat beading on his forehead. "I...I think I'm gonna be sick."
With that, McGee bounded up the stairs, running from the house, ripping the face mask off. Cecil Jones came out a few minutes later as McGee was getting to his feet, wiping the spittle and bile from his lips. Jones seemed to be enjoying himself. "Get any on the shirt, Slammer?"
McGee jammed his finger into Jones' face. "You brought me here because I've dealt with Ron Jansen's other son Wayne?"
Jones took a step back, shrugging his shoulders. "Well, you are the most qualified to handle this one. The Commander said to give it to you."
McGee made a sour face. "Fuck you very much, Cecil."
"Look, I know you had the little mishap with Wayne, but lighten up, slick! If you have a problem, take it up with the Commander."
"I will, buttface."
McGee got back into his transport unit and sped away.
Scott McGee arrived at Enforcement headquarters and promptly made his way up to the Commander's office. As he walked down the hall, he saw a tall, statuesque black woman with shoulder length dark hair in her early forties clad in a skirt and blouse come racing up to him. McGee sighed in displeasure. She was a sporting agent, and one-time girlfriend named Danielle Gifford.
"Hey, Slammer!" Gifford called out. "How they hangin'?"
"Don't call me that, Dani," McGee sighed. "What the hell are you doing here, anyway?"
"I want to represent you again."
"Dani, I'm through with that line of work."
Gifford put her hands on McGee's muscled chest. "Look, I can get you a six-month contract, spacious housing unit, and a top of the line transport unit. It's a great deal!"
"I don't want it!"
"Slammer, you were the best to ever play The Competition. You went undefeated. Forty-nine and O."
McGee's eyes narrowed. "You're forgetting I had one no contest."
Gifford waved her hand. "It was a small mishap. It can never happen again. The Committee made sure of it."
"Is that who sent you? The Committee?"
"They just want to see a champion Slammer come back. It's real embarrassing when the Slammer either gets killed or has to settle for a draw. C'mon, what do you say?"
"Go find someone else, Dani. I have to go to work."
He pushed past the lovely woman and entered the Commander's office. He was a lean-faced Hispanic man named Saul Ortega who sat with his feet up on the desk. His brow furrowed when he saw the wild-print shirt McGee was wearing. "Morning, Scott. Lose a bet?"
McGee leaned over Ortega's desk and glared at his superior. "What the hell are you trying to do to me, Saul?"
Ortega put his feet on the floor. "Look, Ron Jansen is the most powerful Dough Dick in the city. He thinks he can do anything and get away with it."
"Hiding a possible suspect. David Jansen."
"Those bankers do a lot of shady things, I'm sure," McGee said. "All he has to do is flash some of those credits around and people jump."
"Last time we had a major victim outbreak, we had reason to believe Ron was harboring a fugitive then. Know what I mean?"
"His other son, Wayne."
"Right. We didn't have enough proof to nail dear old dad. I want to get his crooked ass this time. I want your help on this."
"What do you want me to do?" McGee asked.
"I want you to rattle Jansen's cage. Try to find out where David is at."
"Is that all?"
"I figure you know the guy pretty well. Be creative." A smile played across Ortega's lips. "Slammer Time, no es verdad?"
"Is The Committee going to be watching on this one?"
"They want David caught. That's all there is to it."
"My way, then."
Ortega flashed a mouthful of white teeth, then gave McGee a mock salute, putting his feet back up on the desk. As McGee left the Commander's office, he thought things over.
Damn them, anyway. They were the power behind the throne, so to speak. Everything society had become came from The Committee. They controlled things. They dictated things. But, every now and then, some asshole slipped through the cracks and raised hell.
Like some asshole named David Jansen.
McGee thought about his shadowy past, all the things he seemingly couldn't remember before...when? He remembered becoming a Slammer. When he "retired", he became an agent for Enforcement. That was five years ago. Everything else was a blur. Had The Committee done something to him? McGee had the feeling they were like puppeteers, pulling all the strings. Hell, they were probably reading his mind. Any second now, they'd zap some implant inside his body, and he'd die mysteriously of a heart attack.
Yeah, well, fuck you, Committee, McGee thought. Fuck you and kiss my sweet, hairy ass. McGee stopped for a moment and looked around, feeling comfortable by the fact they hadn't interpreted his thoughts.
"God, what I wouldn't give for the Decadent Era of great-grand pap's day," McGee said to no one in particular. Then he went about his merry way.
The guard outside Ron Jansen's upscale, elegantly furnished downtown office came plowing through the doors. He stumbled backwards, tumbling to the carpet in a crumpled heap. Scott McGee stepped into the office a moment later with a shitty grin playing across his lips. Jansen, a balding, overweight fellow in an expensive suit looked up from papers he was perusing, then sat back and gave a toothy smile.
"Well, well, well!" Jansen said. "Look who it is. Mr. Slammer."
"Naw, it's Mr. Pain In The Ass to you."
"Whatever. What the fuck do you want?"
"You know, back in the Era, when talking pictures were very popular, there was this one...what was the name? Jeez, had this guy on the run. I'll be god damn," McGee said as he snapped his fingers. "His name was David Jansen, too."
"Different spelling, of course," McGee interrupted. "What was it they called him? Hmm? The Criminal? The Asswipe? Naw! I know what it was! The Fugitive!"
"Is there a point to this, twat lips?"
McGee's gaze became cold and steady. "Where's your son?"
"I don't know where he is. Haven't seen him in a while."
"You'd better come clean with me, Ron or I'll bury you!"
"I don't have to give you shit!" Jansen spat.
"Look, pal, the boys you sire seem to have some screws loose, get me? They just can't keep their hands off women and...little boys."
McGee deliberately emphasized the "little boys" part. It worked. Ron Jansen got to his feet, his face going brick red, his hands going into fists. "You shutup! You just shut your mouth!"
McGee walked up to the edge of Jansen's desk. "If I find David, he's gonna pay for those sixteen people he butchered." Then McGee looked around at the office and smiled once more at Jansen. "Bank on it."
As McGee turned to leave, the office doors opened and two hulking thugs blocked his way. McGee clucked his tongue. "Oh, please. Don't do this. Someone is gonna get hurt."
"Nice knowin' ya, cocksucker!" Jansen growled.
One of the thugs put his hand on McGee's shoulder. That's when he exploded into action. He hooked the man's arm and gave him a quick, heel-of-the-palm stroke to his sternum. McGee followed up with a shot to his nose, breaking it open in a spray of blood. Then McGee's leg flashed out and struck the second thug in the gut. As he reeled backwards, McGee launched a roundhouse kick that snapped the man's head back. With one thug on the floor moaning, trying to stem the flow of blood from his busted nose, the second man was out on his feet, his eyes rolling back into his skull. McGee executed a back-spin kick which caught the man flush on the jaw and deposited him to the plush carpet.
Ron Jansen's mouth gaped at the demise of his two gorillas as McGee rushed the desk, grabbing Jansen by the tie and hauling him forward. "Now listen to me," McGee hissed. "Try anything like that again and I'll kick your ass so hard, you'll be shitting out of your mouth!" McGee shoved him hard back into his chair. "Have a nice day!"
Then he was leaving the Jansen Bank Building.
It was early afternoon when McGee was pulling his transport unit up to the curb in front of his housing unit. He figured on getting a quick bite to eat before heading out and combing the lower south side of town for possible hideouts David Jansen could be using. As McGee stepped out of the unit, his portable phone unit beeped, and he flipped it open to take the call.
"Hey, Slammer!" Dani Gifford's voice boomed. "Getting in shape for competition?"
McGee huffed with displeasure. "No! And don't call me that!"
"C'mon, what I'm offering you is a good deal. The Committee wants you! The fans want to see you in action, too. We have a Pay-Per-View contract lined up. We can make a lot of money!"
"Jesus!" McGee complained, hating the very concept of Pay-Per-View, even back in the Era. "You can't watch anything on the Show Unit anymore without it being Pay-Per-View. It sucks! Even the commercials are Pay-Per-View!"
"Look, I know it's not like it used to be, but it's big business now. C'mon, Slammer!"
"I don't trust The Committee! I don't want another fiasco like last time."
"Come to your senses, my man!" Gifford said. "We need skilled athletes for the competition. That's the only way it works."
"See you around, Dani," McGee said, breaking the connection.
McGee put the unit back in his pocket and stood there, hands resting on the hood of his transport unit, running so many things through his head. The Committee, the competition...Dani Gifford. Oh, how he'd like to sweep that vibrant woman off her feet and make her his again. They'd had it good for a few years, but his "retirement" had soured things. Both of them had a hand in that. Just to hold her in his arms again, to tell her how sorry he was for everything, and make things right.
Something out of the corner of his eye got McGee's attention. His eyes followed a transport unit making its way down the street toward him. Some little prickle at the back of his neck gave him a warning. McGee was about to turn and walk up to his housing unit when he saw gun barrels poking out from the windows. The sub-machine guns erupted into a monstrous fusillade. Ducking behind his transport unit, McGee narrowly missed the hail of rounds smacking into it. He was hauling out his pistol as the vehicle sped off. Racing into the street, McGee ripped off caseless, 11mm bullets that smacked into the trunk of the fleeing unit, but not doing any real damage. In seconds, the vehicle was lost from sight, leaving McGee in the street, cursing up a storm.
Trotting up to the front door of his housing unit, he had the door unlocked in a heartbeat. When he entered, he saw a blur out of his peripheral vision, but was unable to ward off the blow to his skull. McGee felt a massive pain, but fell into unconsciousness.
The fog surrounded him once more. He had a feeling of soaring through the air, and seconds later, the crowd erupting into a cacophony of cheers.
"SLAM-MER! SLAM-MER! SLAM-MER!"
McGee heard voices in the background.
"What the hell?"
"What's the matter?"
"The device isn't working!"
McGee waded through the mist and saw himself again. Then there was the blinding explosion. He saw himself writhing on the polished wood floor, covered in blood, gore and bits of flesh. He screamed...
McGee's vision came back slowly. When he was able to focus, he was in the living area of a run-down housing unit. He saw a big, scruffy-looking hardcase staring at him. Then a boyishly handsome man with a dark complexion and wavy, brown hair stepped into view. McGee knew who it was immediately. It was David Jansen.
"You know, roughing up my father like that wasn't a smart thing to do," David said. "Did you think I was just gonna sit back and do nothing?"
"I was bored and had nothing better to do."
David's fist shot out and connected solidly with McGee's jaw. He groaned in pain and saw spots dancing across his blurry vision. "That's for Wayne," Jansen spat.
"What are you gonna do, Davey? Kill me and try to make it look like part of your killing spree? Enforcement will hunt you down!"
"Then maybe I need to kill you quick, and take an extended vacation. How's that sound?"
David's rough companion smiled cruelly and giggled. David yanked McGee to his feet and got him in a hammer lock. The thug pulled out a long-bladed knife, waving the long, steel blade in McGee's face, running one side of the blade lightly across his cheek. McGee felt it bite into his flesh with a sharp sting. He felt blood trickling down his face.
"I'd like to hear you scream," Knife Man said. "But, will you scream as a male...or a female?" Both men laughed. McGee knew if he didn't act, he'd be dead, and all this would be for naught.
Scott McGee smirked at Knife Man. "Wouldn't you like to know?"
McGee jumped into the air, both feet punching into Knife Man's face. As he tumbled to the carpet, McGee snapped his head back and butted David Jansen hard in the nose. Jansen's hold on McGee broke as the killer stumbled back into the wall. McGee pivoted toward David, seeing the man going for a pistol in his waistband. With a lightning-quick move, McGee stripped the weapon from his grasp. Hearing Knife Man recovering behind him, McGee saw him cocking back the knife to hurl it at his prey. McGee stepped behind the dazed David Jansen and held him up as a human shield.
The knife plunged into David's shoulder as McGee leveled the pistol. The weapon thundered above the painful howl of Jansen, a trio of 11mm slugs drilling Knife Man's chest and flipping him to the ground in a bloody heap. McGee flung the wounded Jansen hard into the wall and came to stand at the corner of a hallway leading to the back of the housing unit. A gunman appeared at the far end of the passage, leveling an SMG. McGee only had a second to pull back his head to avoid the blast of rounds that chipped paint and plaster from the walls. He dived to the carpet with his gun hand extended, narrowly missing the gunner's second burst as it stitched inches from his form. McGee touched off a double punch of bullets, taking the side of the gunman's head off in a gory, sticky spatter.
Getting to his feet, McGee heard the front door bang open, seeing a shotgun-wielding thug standing in the doorway.
"What the fuck?" the thug growled.
Both weapons raised, but McGee's came level a hair quicker, squeezing off 3 11mm slugs that punched into the shotgunner's stomach. He screamed, his shotgun jerking upwards, sending a massive blast of buckshot pulverizing a portion of the ceiling above where McGee stood. The man looked wide-eyed at his innards pouring from the big holes in his belly, slowly sliding to the threshold.
McGee turned back toward David Jansen, who whimpered in agony, trying to pull the knife from his bloody shoulder. Tears streamed down his cheeks as he looked at the man before him.
"What are you gonna do to me?" David wailed.
McGee kneeled beside David, giving him his patented shitty grin. "Slammer-Time, bitch!" Then knocked him out with a fist to the chin.
Surrounded by the dark mist, McGee heard the crowd going deathly silent. Confused, he waded into the cloudy fog and saw a simple wooden platform ahead. He saw two men fiddling with the person strapped to a chair atop the platform.
"The damn thing's not working!"
"It has to be!"
McGee watched himself move closer to bring the person who was strapped to the chair into view.
"Wayne Jansen," McGee whispered.
"Oh, shit! The device is activated!"
"Hey, what's the problem?" McGee wondered out loud.
"Slammer, get outta there!"
Wayne Jansen was whimpering as his body exploded into hundreds of bits of ghastly meat. The gore plowed into McGee as he staggered back and fell to the floor. He glanced down, found himself covered in blood, brains and flesh. He screamed...
Scott McGee opened his eyes, saw he sat in a dimly-lit locker room. He felt a gentle hand slide around his shoulders. It was Danielle Gifford.
"Slammer, you okay?" she asked with a concerned look across her ebony features.
"Yeah," McGee replied, touching the hand on his shoulder. "I'm fine."
"You might want to warm up. It's almost time."
Dressed in a black, spandex body suit, McGee stood up and turned to Dani. She handed him an orange ball with black striping. He remembered it was much smaller than the one used in the popular sport back in the Era. McGee had to laugh to himself. Yeah, all sports from the Era had been banned, all the spoiled, over-paid, drugged-up athletes of yesteryear taken to the public square and flogged...to death. That had been the decree of The Committee. Now, all that remained was The Competition.
At the mouth of the passageway leading out into the arena, McGee wouldn't have known the place was jammed packed with about 20,000 fans. But, The Committee had instructed they remain silent until The Competition commenced. The practice area of the court was illuminated, and McGee saw the backboard and the basket that stood ten feet off the ground. McGee dribbled the ball around a few times and put up a shot. It swished through the net. Then he did some flashy moves, dribbling the ball between his legs and behind his back, executing a turn-around jump shot that also swished through the net. After a few more minutes of warm-ups, McGee made his way back to the edge of the hardwood court where Dani Gifford stood.
"Do you remember all the rules?" she asked.
"Refresh my memory," McGee answered.
"You'll have twenty-four seconds to go down-court and do the deed. No ‘traveling' more than three steps with the ball. The ball can be used as a weapon if you so desire. The only opposition you'll have are five convicts who have been pre-selected. If you don't make the basket by the end of the shot clock, the match is a draw. If you...um...die, well..."
"Yeah. Game over."
"Also," Dani continued, "they put an enclosure around the victim so what happened to you before, will not happen again. They moved the platform from the floor to behind the backboard. All this was done...for you, Slammer. The Committee REALLY wants you back." Dani's brow furrowed and she looked down sheepishly. When she looked up at McGee, he could see her eyes were moist. He reached over to cup her face. She closed her eyes and smiled, putting her hand gently over his.
"I'd like you back, too, Dani," McGee said. "Do you think that might be possible?"
She opened her eyes and pulled his hand from her face, holding it in hers. "Get through this and we'll see where we stand."
"Deal." He leaned over and pressed his lips softly to hers. The ball dropped from his grasp and they embraced for what seemed like an eternity. When the arena lights came up, the crowd went into a cheering frenzy.
"SLAM-MER! SLAM-MER! SLAM-MER!"
Looking down-court, McGee saw the other backboard and rim. Directly behind the fiberglass board was the platform occupied by the prisoner. He could see David Jansen's face clearly, tightly strapped to a chair, surrounded by a fiberglass box. McGee accepted the pistol from Dani, snapping back the slide to chamber a round. Then the public-address announcer came across the arena sound system.
"Well, fans, here we go! The Competition is about to begin!"
The lights went down again until only a spotlight illuminated Scott McGee's form.
"On your mark...get set...GO!!!"
McGee dribbled the ball down-court. It took only a few seconds for him to see a shadow off to his left. His free hand reached into his waistband as a convict came into view. McGee brought up the pistol and capped off a trio of 11mm bullets that punched through the man's chest.
As he dribbled further on, two more figures blocked his way. McGee leaped into the air, his feet planting into both chests. They tumbled to the floor as another convict put a choke hold on McGee from behind. McGee slammed an elbow into his gut and swung around with his gun hand, smashing him across the nose. As the convict recoiled, McGee put an 11mm slug through his skull.
Putting the gun back into his waistband, he saw the two cons he'd kicked recovering for another attack. McGee spun around for a back spinning kick that struck the one man's jaw. Then his foot was up again, hitting with such force that the convict's neck broke with a loud snap. The other guy started to come forward, but McGee surprised him.
"Think fast!" he blurted.
McGee threw the ball at the convict which belted him square in the face and knocked him to the floor. The ball bounced back to McGee as he dribbled closer to the basket. Four of the convicts were down and that meant one left. McGee saw him charging out of the gloomy shadows, yelling and screaming. Dribbling the ball, McGee drew the pistol and let off 3 11mm rounds that ripped into the man's sternum. McGee saw the 24-second shot clock winding down as he approached the basket and leapt into the air. He soared for what seemed like an eternity and when the ball went through the net, the crowd erupted.
"SLAM-MER! SLAM-MER! SLAM-MER!"
For the first time, Scott McGee noticed Ron Jansen sitting in the front row flanked by Enforcement. He walked over to him, knowing the man's only remaining son had mere seconds left to live. The announcer's voice boomed once again.
"Yes, fans, tonight's execution is under way! And heeeeeeeeeere's the countdown!!"
"10 -- 9 -- 8 -- 7 -- 6..."
"You little cocksucker!" Ron Jansen screamed. "You'll pay for this!"
"You know, there used to be a saying in the old sport..."
McGee's foot launched out, connecting with Ron Jansen's nose, sending bone slivers into his brain.
"5 -- 4 -- 3 -- 2 -- 1..."
McGee smiled at David Jansen's panic-stricken face as he exploded into gory bits of meaty pieces.
"...I love this game," McGee finished.
The crowd roared and roared and roared.
Slammer had returned.
© 2009 Chris Nardone
Bio: Chris Nardone has been writing for almost 20 years. He is an affiliate member of the Horror Writer's Association and has published a novel (And Hell Followed With Him, available through Lulu.com) and various fiction and non-fiction pieces in The Nocturnal Lyric, Mental Dimensions, Dark Moon Rising, Beef: The Meat, Dvorak's Nocturne Horizons, House of Pain, Eloquent Stories, Sinister City, Demon Minds and The Circle Magazine (the last item listed was published under the pen name "C. J. Macklin").
E-mail: Chris Nardone
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