Chapter 2: The Beating

I tried going north. I couldn’t force myself to drive past Bountiful. The Salt Lake City Airport was the furthest west I could go. I couldn’t enter Parley’s Canyon from I-80. Instead of heading east like I wanted, I found myself steering my truck up north onto Foothill. I pulled off at the first gas station. I stared at my smart phone and thought about calling B. I decided instead to find a VCR player. This technology is now so obsolete, I doubted if I could find a new one at a big-box retailer; I used my phone to find the closest thrift store.

At Deseret Industries, a Mormon Church run thrift store, I found a portable VCR I could plug into my truck’s power outlet and played the VHS tape from the ATM in the parking lot. The VHS tape had been used over and over again to record countless hours of surveillance. It was scratchy and grainy but I was still recognizable, Mr. Fangs wasn’t. On the tape he looked like gray smoke. It wasn’t the fuzziness of a poorly focused lens; he literally looked like a cloud of smoke.

Between jobs, I have plenty of time to keep up with all the latest gadgets. For obvious reasons, I have a particular interest in surveillance and law enforcement technology. I’ve never heard of a device that could do this to an electronic image. I have a mobile broadband plan and card so I pulled up my laptop and started surfing the web. I couldn’t find anything about a device that could mess with an electronic image this way.

I looked for news of any technology or medication that could keep a person from being able to leave a city, nada. I looked up articles on hypnosis to see if this could explain what was being done to me. Every article I found said a hypnotist couldn’t make a person do anything against his or her will. All the people who do stupid things in public while hypnotized are volunteers; subconsciously they want to be the focus of attention even if it means they look like fools. I was certain my subconscious didn’t want to stay in Salt Lake City.

Normally, I would have researched more on hypnosis. What would hypnotism do to a hot woman in a bar who was tempted to say “yes” but for rational reasons said “no”? Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to waste on that interesting question.

‘Alright, what kind of monster turned into granite when exposed to sunlight?’ I finally got something. According to Wikipedia, trolls were creatures out of Norse or Scandinavian folklore. When exposed to sunlight, they turned into stone. They were also called jotunn or giants. ‘God damn it! This didn’t make any sense—fairy tales?’ I scanned other websites; they all confirmed sunlight was deadly to trolls.

Twenty-four hours ago if someone had told me trolls existed, I would have laughed. Even now after I’d killed one, chopped off its head, and watched it turn into stone, I still didn’t believe in fricking fairy tales.

The articles that described Norse trolls also discussed Scandinavian witch doctors and shamans. According to the Urban Dictionary, a Geas was a curse used by Norse witches. It could be used to make the victim do pretty much anything the witch wanted. Every instinct I had told me this was bullshit. Cold hard logic said fairy tales and magic spells were real.

I didn’t know why I had been cursed, but I had a pretty good idea who was responsible. I’ve had enemies with access to the best hackers and databases looking for me for years. My cover identity was unbreakable by any normal means, but I hadn’t accounted for magic. How in hell do you stop a witch from finding you?

I looked for ways to break spells. I found a website that said if I placed St. John’s Wort, sage, and sweet flag in a sachet, lit candles, and said a poem about lemons, salt, and water I’d be free of any curse. I had difficulty believing it would be that easy. From then on, I tried to filter out the sites that looked like they had been put up by adults who slept with stuffed animals. If the webpage had any kind of unicorns, pretty flowers, or cute elves, I figured it didn’t have useful information. Despite my efforts, I still had to spend hours looking at pastel colored crap. I learned the essence of magic was getting in touch with your feelings.

This was awful; I would have been less pissed if B had put a bullet into me. Most of the people who wanted me dead had good reasons. Making me read this drivel was unforgivable.

I found other sites by people I would have labeled as nutty religious fanatics just a couple of hours ago. “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” was often prominently displayed. Unfortunately, according to these same sites, killing the witch didn’t always break the spell. It looked like I’d have to question B before I killed him.

I’ve been in this situation before, where I’ve wanted to incapacitate someone dangerous. I’ve studied martial arts all my life but I’m not that big, strong, or fast. I’m 5’9” and weigh 165 lb. I’m fit and coordinated but no more than any other reasonably athletic guy who has a lot of time to work out. I don’t like fair fights. If you’re not cheating, you’re not in it to win.

Deseret Industries has a large parking lot and most of it was empty. It was a good place to meet the witch. In a way, I was grateful for being trapped. I’d been living the safe and cautious life for a long time. Now that I was forced into it, I could admit to myself I was bored. Killing the troll had been a rush. Given the choice, I would have left all the questions I had unanswered, but I didn’t have a choice. B had fucked with the wrong guy. I drove my truck to an empty corner of the parking lot and then prepared to meet B.

The Taser C2 shoots a replaceable cartridge that uses compressed nitrogen to shoot two barbed, one inch long probes up to fifteen feet. Insulated wires connect the probes to the Taser. Every pull of the Taser trigger starts a 30-second electrical cycle inhibiting voluntary muscular control. I’ve modified one to pulse continuously until the battery runs out. I call it my hand buzzer.

I carefully paint my right palm with liquid latex that has been custom colored to match my skin tone. The latex secures a tab with the two barbed probes attached to the center of my hand. I’m careful when I use this device. An electrified hand naturally forms a fist. I don’t want my hand to get caught in my victim’s grip so I don’t use latex on my fingers or the back of my hand. Dry skin isn’t a great conductor. I was reasonably sure even if one of my targets grabbed my hand I wouldn’t get the full impact of the electrical discharge; it still wasn’t something I wanted to test.

When I shake my victim’s hand, the two barbed probes enter his palm. The natural reaction to sudden pain is to jerk away. As my target pulls away, he yanks the probes from the latex attaching them to my palm and the buzzer activates. The Taser causes every single muscle in your body to spasm. You can’t breathe. The three different times I’ve used my hand buzzer in the past the batteries ran out between 3 and 3.5 minutes. All my victims passed out within 2.

The people I use my buzzer on are extremely dangerous and they’re not the kind to forgive and forget. I make sure they will never have an opportunity to get revenge. I’ve learned from past screw-ups to be cautious, to always have a backup plan. Even though my device has worked perfectly three out of three times, there was no guarantee it would work as well on B. I’d never gone up against a witch before. I had no idea what his capabilities were. If my buzzer didn’t work, I needed another way to take him out quickly.

I don’t like handguns; it’s too easy to miss and too hard to get an instant kill. If I’m going to make noise, I want immediate results. My preferred backup weapon is a bang stick. Divers use them to ward off sharks. It’s a shotgun shell inside a metal tube attached to the end of a stick. To use my bang stick I press my left palm into my target. This compresses the tip of the stick that is strapped to my inner forearm which sets off the shotgun shell. The tube is just long enough to prevent the lead shot from blowing out the sides. When the bang stick goes off it blows lead shot directly from the contact point into the chest. The entry wound is an inch wide. A few inches deeper the spray of lead is almost a foot in diameter. A hit anywhere in the chest is instantly fatal.

It took awhile to prepare my weapons. It was July and even though it was close to 6 pm, it was hot. I could only hope the fact I was wearing a long sleeved shirt wasn’t too suspicious. Utah has a desert climate, even in the summer it gets cool at night. In an hour or so, the long sleeved shirt wouldn’t look so odd. I called B.

“Yes?”

“What did you do to me?”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“I can’t leave Salt Lake City. The hell you didn’t do anything!”

The asshole actually started laughing. “You have no idea how true that statement is.”

“What do you want?”

“Believe it or not Victor, I want to help you. You’ve entered the Great Game and you don’t understand the rules. The situation is complicated and it’s going to take time to learn the intricacies. But first you have to survive. If you spend the night again in your truck or in a hotel, you won’t last the night.”

“Can we meet?”

“Sure.”

“I’m at…”

“I know where you are. Wait for me outside your truck.”

‘Shit! Shit! Shit!’ He knew where I was and he knew I had a truck. If I hadn’t known I was stuck in Salt Lake City, I would have taken off. I racked my brain. My windows were tinted. I was at least a hundred feet away from the nearest building or car. There was a chance he didn’t know what I had done to prepare.

I got out of my truck. I was out there for less than two minutes when I heard a sound behind me. It was B.

I studied him. When I last saw him at the gym, I had assumed he was black. I realized now that I didn’t know what he was. He was dark, much darker than most African-Americans, but had distinctively European features and light brown almost golden eyes. He looked more Subcontinent Indian than African. Again, I was struck by how pretty he was.

I couldn’t figure out how he got so close, so fast. I got the sinking feeling I was outclassed. I seriously considered going with the flow, to see how cooperation worked.

‘Fuck it.’ He was messing with my head; he had turned my own body into a prison. There was no way I could live with that.

I put on a friendly smile and reached out, “Hey B.”

He took my hand without hesitation. He didn’t jerk back. I just had enough time to think, ‘This is going to suck!’ when he twisted his palm while still keeping a tight grip. I felt the latex give on my palm. I found out dry skin conducted very well.

Your strongest muscles are your quads, your back, and your grip. When tens of thousands of volts run through your body, all your muscles contract. My knees locked into extension, my spine arced backwards, and my hand gripped tightly around B’s. I couldn’t breathe.

Suffocate an average person and he’ll usually pass out within two minutes, be dead or permanently brain damaged past four. Training makes a difference. At the highest levels, studying martial arts is all about control. I like control. Martial arts led to meditation which led to free diving. Free diving is a sport where people compete to see how long they can hold their breath. A really good free diver can hold his or her breath for more than six minutes. I can hold mine for five.

I didn’t pass out although I’ve never experienced so much pain before in my life. My eyes were locked into one position like the rest my body. I could see B with my peripheral vision. His body wasn’t locked. For some reason the current wasn’t affecting him. He was giggling; I was amusing him. I’ve never hated someone so much. My anger helped me focus. Pain is just weakness leaving the body. I used everything I had ever learned about self-control to keep the pain from overwhelming me. I still had a chance. I had my bang stick.

Eternity ended; the Taser battery ran out. Preventing myself from collapsing was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I kept hold of his hand; it helped me keep me upright, then I threw my left arm toward him. It looked like he was moving in slow motion but I still missed.

He slapped me. I struggled to make contact with his chest. Over and over, he struck me with his open hand. He couldn’t be bothered to kill or even disarm me. He didn’t think I was a threat. I no longer felt pain or anger. I had only one thought, ‘This asshole was going to die.’

“Victor, Victor, I have to hand it to you. You’re one stubborn cuss. Say we’re friends and the beating will stop.”

“You’re dead.”

He started laughing again. He reached over and tore my bang stick from my arm. Nylon straps tore like tissue paper. He then lifted me up in the air with one arm.

“You remind me of someone I adore and respect. You’ve got as much pride. You’re not as smart, good looking, tall, or strong, but you remind me of me. I think I’m going to call you mini-me.”

I didn’t have the strength to lift my arms. “So I guess the B stands for Bigamy.” I finally saw him lose the amused look. The last thing I saw was his fist.

Chapter 3